Evidence for the role of German final devoicing in pre-attentive speech processing: a mismatch negativity study

Front Psychol. 2014 Nov 25;5:1317. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01317. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Results of a mismatch negativity experiment are reported in which the pre-attentive relevance of the German phonological alternation of final devoicing (FD) is shown in two ways. The experiment employs pseudowords. (1) A deviant [vus] paired with standard /vuzə/ did not show a mismatch effect for the voicing change in /z/ versus [s] because the two can be related by FD. When standard and deviant were reversed, the two could not be related by FD and a mismatch effect for the voicing difference occurred. (2) An ill-formed deviant that violates FD, *[vuz], triggered mismatch effects that were plausibly attributed to its ill-formedness. The results show that a syllable-related process like FD is already taken into account by the processing system in early pre-attentive processing.

Keywords: German; event-related potentials (ERP); final devoicing; mismatch negativity (MMN); phonological rules; phonotactics; pre-attentive processing.