Phonological features and phonotactic constraints in speech production

Matthew Goldrick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Languages are subject to phonotactic constraints - Restrictions on sound sequences. An implicit learning paradigm examined whether participants could acquire constraints at two levels of representation through exposure to a set of syllables. Participants were exposed to categorical segment-level constraints (e.g., /f/ only in onset, /s/ only in coda) as well as gradient featural-level constraints (e.g., labiodental fricatives /v/ and /f/ occurred in onset position 75% of the time, coda 25%). Speech errors revealed that participants encoded constraints at both levels of representation. By biasing errors towards a single syllable position, segmental constraints strengthened the tendency of errors to preserve target syllable position (e.g., virtually no /s/ errors occurred in onset). In contrast, since the featural constraint allowed errors to occur in both syllable positions, encoding it weakened the tendency to preserve target syllable position (e.g., /f/ errors, influenced by featural as well as segmental constraints, surfaced in coda more often than /s/ errors surfaced in onset). Finally, participants in a second study failed to learn featural constraints for dorsal stop consonants. The implications of these results for the representation and processing of features are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-603
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Features
  • Phonotactic constraints
  • Speech errors
  • Speech production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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