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Title: Laryngeal features are phonetically abstract : mismatch negativity evidence from Arabic, English, and Russian
Authors: Schluter, KT
Politzer-Ahles, S 
Al Kaabi, M
Almeida, D
Keywords: Mismatch negativity
Laryngeal state
Spread glottis
Phonological feature
Distinctive feature
Issue Date: May-2017
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
Source: Frontiers in psychology, May 2017, v. 8, 746, p. 1-19 How to cite?
Journal: Frontiers in psychology 
Abstract: Many theories of phonology assume that the sound structure of language is made up of distinctive features, but there is considerable debate about how much articulatory detail distinctive features encode in long-term memory. Laryngeal features such as voicing provide a unique window into this question: while many languages have twoway contrasts that can be given a simple binary feature account [ VOICE], the precise articulatory details underlying these contrasts can vary significantly across languages. Here, we investigate a series of two-way voicing contrasts in English, Arabic, and Russian, three languages that implement their voicing contrasts very differently at the articulatory-phonetic level. In three event-related potential experiments contrasting English, Arabic, and Russian fricatives along with Russian stops, we observe a consistent pattern of asymmetric mismatch negativity (MMN) effects that is compatible with an articulatorily abstract and cross-linguistically uniform way of marking two-way voicing contrasts, as opposed to an articulatorily precise and cross-linguistically diverse way of encoding them. Regardless of whether a language is theorized to encode [VOICE] over [SPREAD GLOTTIS], the data is consistent with a universal marking of the [SPREAD GLOTTIS] feature.
ISSN: 1664-1078 (online)
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00746
Rights: Copyright © 2017 Schluter, Politzer-Ahles, Al Kaabi and Almeida. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
The Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) is available at
The following publication Schluter, K. T., Politzer-Ahles, S., Al Kaabi, M., & Almeida, D. (2017). Laryngeal Features are Phonetically Abstract: Mismatch Negativity Evidence from Arabic, English, and Russian. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 746 is available at
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