Many sources of context information in speech (such as speaking rate) occur either before or after the phonetic cues they influence, yet there is little work examining the time-course of these effects. Here, we investigate how listeners compensate for preceding sentence rate and subsequent vowel length (a secondary cue that has been used as a proxy for speaking rate) when categorizing words varying in voice-onset time (VOT). Participants selected visual objects in a display while their eye-movements were recorded, allowing us to examine when each source of information had an effect on lexical processing. We found that the effect of VOT preceded that of vowel length, suggesting that each cue is used as it becomes available. In a second experiment, we found that, in contrast, the effect of preceding sentence rate occurred simultaneously with VOT, suggesting that listeners interpret VOT relative to preceding rate.
Keywords: context effects; speaking rate; speech perception; spoken word recognition; visual world paradigm.