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The status of consonants and vowels in phonological assembly: Testing the two-cycles model with Italian

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Recent studies by Berent and Perfetti (1995) and Lee, Rayner, and Pollatsek (2001) have shown a processing priority of consonants over vowels in tasks like backward masking and reading, respectively. One possible explanation for this advantage of consonants is in terms of the specific characteristics of the English spelling (i.e., a great inconsistency in the spelling-sound relations for vowels), and therefore is not predicted for a language, like Italian, with a transparent orthography. The aim of the present experiments was to investigate the consonant advantage in Italian with the backward masking paradigm. The first two experiments, with a perceptual identification and a naming task, showed a masking reduction effect for masks sharing vowels with the target at the shortest SOAs, in addition to a pseudo-homophone advantage as compared to the control condition. In the third experiment, where a lexical decision task was used, the advantage of the mask sharing vowels disappeared. The fourth experiment was a replication of Experiment 1 with different materials. Overall, the results suggest that the advantage of consonants can only be found in English, whereas in Italian, for which the computation of phonology of vowels and consonants is similar, no effect is apparent. Thus, the processing priority for consonants seems to depend on the inconsistencies of vowel phonology in English.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università di Padova, Italy 2: Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università di Padova, Italy and Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, UK 3: Istituto di Psicologia, Università di Urbino, Italy

Publication date: January 1, 2003


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