Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


"In the melody of the readers inner voice, heteronyms are tricky."


Psychology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


The English writing system represents our spoken language at two levels phonology and prosody. The difference between cat and rat is phonological. The difference in meaning between [Did] a rat chase my cat? and [Yes,] a rat chased your cat is prosodic. Skilled readers of English engage phonology and prosody when they read silently. It is well established that a to-be-recognized word in print is influenced by detailed knowledge of phonology (Perfetti & Bell, 1991; Van Orden & Kloos, 2005). Emerging evidence suggests that skilled, silent readers extract prosodic features, including lexical stress, metrical stress (Breen & Clifton, 2011), and focus prosody (Gross & colleagues, 2014), when translating the relations between print and speech. Heteronyms present a challenge to readers of English, because unique meanings correspond to the different pronunciations of identically spelled words (e.g., PROduce [noun]; proDUCE [verb]). We speculated that among college students, less skilled readers and late speakers of English may have difficulty extracting the proper melody of heteronyms when silently reading. Twenty-four late speakers and 957 native speakers rated the helpfulness of the placement of prosthetic caps in heteronyms embedded in sentences. Caps either congruously (e.g., the farmers market usually has a wide variety of PROduce) or incongruously (e.g., rapidly boiling water in the large pot will PROduce hot steam) marked proper stress assignment. Heteronyms appeared early or late in the sentence, making them phonologically less or more predictable from context, respectively. Although our sample size was small, late speakers of English could not meaningfully discriminate helpful from unhelpful prosthetic caps (p=.46). Native speakers could (p

Conference Name

27th APS Annual Convention

Conference Location

New York, NY

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