Speech errors reflect newly learned phonotactic constraints

Jill A. Warker, Gary S. Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Speech errors reveal the speaker's implicit knowledge of phonotactic constraints, both languagewide constraints (e.g., /K/ cannot be a syllable onset when one is speaking English) and experimentally induced constraints (e.g., /k/ cannot be an onset during the experiment). Four experiments investigated the acquisition of novel 2nd-order constraints, in which the allowable position of a consonant depends on some other property of the syllable (e.g., /k/ can only be an onset if the vowel is /I/). Participants recited strings of syllables that exhibited the novel constraints throughout a 4-day experiment. Their errors reflected the newly learned constraints but not until the 2nd day of training. This contrasts with previous research showing that errors become sensitive to 1st-order constraints almost immediately. A model that learns to assign phonemes to syllable positions is presented. It attributes the relative slowness of the acquisition of 2nd-order constraints to the self-interfering property of these constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-398
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Implicit learning
  • Phonotactic learning
  • Speech errors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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