Lexical Pitch Accents and Word Structure

A generally accepted assumption regarding the two Swedish word accents is that
they are conditioned by morphological information and that their phonological
status differs. The effects of word accents and regular declension morphology
processing were tested using Event-Related Potentials. High tones on Accent 2
words as compared to low tones on Accent 1 words produced an early right ante-
rior positivity, interpreted as a P200 effect reflecting the pre-attentive processing
of the tone. Declensional morphological errors yielded an increase in the N400,
indicating conflict in semantic processing for unexpected stem-suffix combina-
tions. The morphological errors also gave rise to a P600, showing reanalysis of the
deviant morphological combination. Mismatches created by high tone-inducing
(Accent 2) suffixes in low tone (Accent 1) words showed a P600 similar to that
found for declension errors, but did not increase the N400. The information from
the tone associated with the stem and the tone-representation induced by the suffix
thus seem to interact in the same time window as morphological reanalysis.


  • Roll, M., Horne, M., and Lindgren, M. Lexical pitch accents and morphology: ERPs of Swedish word processing. Submitted.
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