Acoustic correlates of stress in speech perception

Petroula Mousikou, Patrycja Strycharczuk, Kathleen Rastle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stress is an important property of English spoken words. Research conducted over the past 70 years has sought to determine how acoustic cues, including duration, pitch, and intensity influence stress perception; however, the evidence remains conflicting. In the present study, we used a large dataset of 10 speakers’ productions of disyllabic nonwords to investigate how listeners make use of these cues to perceive stress. Over 100 listeners made stress judgements on nearly one thousand items each, yielding a total of nearly 75,000 analysable responses. Results of average performance showed that stress judgments were influenced by all three cues, both individually and in combination. However, the relative importance of any one cue depended on the value of the other cues, particularly in the frequent situations in which cues offered conflicting stress information. Results of individual performance showed that listeners often use the same acoustic information regarding stress in different ways, but that speakers also sometimes offer different information about stress. Our mega-study approach to investigating word-stress perception eclipses previous studies in terms of its power, and offers new insights into our understanding of how listeners perceive stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104509
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Early online date20 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • Acoustics
  • Speech perception
  • Word stress


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