The influence of syllabic structure in rule learning

The Influence of Syllabic Structure in Rule Learning


Irene Torres1, Juan M. Toro1,2


1. Center for Brain and Cognition, Universitat Pompeu Fabra



The syllable is a basic processing unit in speech, used to segment the signal and access the lexicon. Rule learning is a basic mechanism by which we can extract regularities from a speech stream over adjacent or non-adjacent segments as syllables or phonemes. Here we wanted to explore whether our representations of syllabic structure modulate how we extract abstract structures from speech. In a series of experiments, participants (N=17 in each experiment) listened to a stream of trisyllabic non-sense words that followed an ABB rule over syllables (Experiments 1a-4a) or over vowels (Experiments 1b-4b). They were then presented with a two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) generalization test where the syllabic structure was modified (e.g. going from CV during familiarization to either CVC or CCV during test). Results show that subjects generalized the abstract rule in all the experiments. Performance in the experiments where the rule was implemented over syllables was higher than performance in the experiments where the rule was implemented over vowels. However, we did not observe any effect of changes in syllabic structure from familiarization to test. This suggests the syllable was not modulating the extraction of the abstract patterns over the syllables or the vowel segments.

Irene Torres, & Juan M. Toro