Coarticulation across morpheme boundaries: An ultrasound study of past-tense inflection in Scottish English

Petroula Mousikou, Patrycja Strycharczuk, Alice Turk, James M. Scobbie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been hypothesized that morphologically-complex words are mentally stored in a decomposed form, often requiring online composition during processing. Morphologically-simple words can only be stored as a whole. The way a word is stored and retrieved is thought to influence its realization during speech production, so that when retrieval requires less time, the articulatory plan is executed faster. Faster articulatory execution could result in more coarticulation. Accordingly, we hypothesized that morphologically-simple words might be produced with more coarticulation than apparently homophonous morphologically-complex words, because the retrieval of monomorphemic forms is direct, in contrast to morphologically-complex ones, which might need to be composed online into full word forms. Using Ultrasound Tongue Imaging, we tested this hypothesis with nine speakers of Scottish English. Over two days of training, participants learned phonemically identical monomorphemic and morphologically-complex nonce words, while on the third consecutive testing day, they produced them in two prosodic contexts. Two types of articulatory analyses revealed no systematic differences in coarticulation between monomorphemic and morphologically-complex items, yet a few speakers did idiosyncratically produce some morphological effects on articulation. Our work contributes to our understanding of how morphologically complex words are stored and processed during speech production.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2021


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