Investigating the phonological status of the initial accent in French: An Event-Related Potentials study

Author(s): Noémie Te Rietmolen, Radouane El Yagoubi, Robert Espesser, Cynthia Magnen and Corine Astésano

Abstract

This Event-Related Potentials (ERP) study investigates the use of prosodic information in the process of lexical access in French. In French, accentuation is said to be post-lexical, with a primary final accent (FA) and secondary initial accent (IA) marking the edges of the phrase. Results from previous studies, however, suggest IA may hold a demarcative function close to the level of the word. Still, the contribution of IA in word processing has not yet been empirically tested. In this study, participants listened to trisyllabic French nouns and pseudowords, with (+IA) or without (_IA) initial accent while completing a lexical decision task. We were mainly interested in modula- tions of the N325, a component assumed to reflect difficulties in the extraction of lexical stress patterns. ERP results show a larger N325 when stimuli were presented _IA, revealing both the automaticity of stress extraction and a preference for stress templates with initial accent.

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