The relationship between language production and verbal short-term memory: The role of stress grouping

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Morgan, Jane ; Edwards, Stephanie ; Wheeldon, Linda R.

This study investigates the influence of stress grouping on verbal short-term memory (STM). English speakers show a preference to combine syllables into trochaic groups, both lexically and in continuous speech. In two serial recall experiments, auditory lists of nonsense syllables were presented with either trochaic (STRONG-weak) or iambic (weak-STRONG) stress patterns, or in monotone. The acoustic correlates that carry stress were also manipulated in order to examine the relationship between input and output processes during recall. In Experiment 1, stressed and unstressed syllables differed in intensity and pitch but were matched for spoken duration. Significantly more syllables were recalled in the trochaic stress pattern condition than in the iambic and monotone conditions, which did not differ. In Experiment 2, spoken duration and pitch were manipulated but intensity was held constant. No effects of stress grouping were observed, suggesting that intensity is a critical acoustic factor for trochaic grouping. Acoustic analyses demonstrated that speech output was not identical to the auditory input, but that participants generated correct stress patterns by manipulating acoustic correlates in the same way in both experiments. These data challenge the idea of a language-independent STM store and support the notion of separable phonological input and output processes.
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