Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Phonemes and Syllables in Speech Perception: size of the attentional focus in French.

By Christophe Pallier


A study by Pitt and Samuel (1990) found that English speakers could narrowly focus attention onto a precise phonemic position inside spoken words [1]. This led the authors to argue that the phoneme, rather than the syllable, is the primary unit of speech perception. Other evidence, obtained with a syllable detection paradigm, has been put forward to propose that the syllable is the unit of perception; yet, these experiments were ran with French speakers [2]. In the present study, we adapted Pitt & Samuel's phoneme detection experiment to French and found that French subjects behave exactly like English subjects: they too can focus attention on a precise phoneme. To explain both this result and the established sensitivity to the syllabic structure, we propose that the perceptual system automatically parses the speech signal into a syllabically-structured phonological representation

Topics: Cognitive Psychology, Speech, Phonology, Psycholinguistics, Psychophysics
Publisher: University of Patras, Rion, Greece
Year: 1997
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1990). Attentional Allocation during Speech Perception: How fine is the focus?,”
  2. (1974). Perceptual units in Speech Recognition,”
  3. (1993). Prelexical processing: the syllabic hypothesis revisited,” in Cognitive models of speech processing: The second sperlonga meeting,
  4. (1993). Testing the speech unit hypothesis with the primed matching task: phoneme categories are perceptually basic,”
  5. (1970). The nonperceptual reality of the phoneme,”
  6. (1981). The role of syllables in speech processing: Infant and adult data,”
  7. (1984). The syllable: A basic perceptual unit in speech perception ?,” in Attention and Performance
  8. (1986). The syllable's differing role in the segmentation of French and
  9. (1981). The syllable's role in speech segmentation,”
  10. (1986). The TRACE model of speech perception,”

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.