OCP‐PLACE in speech segmentation

N.A.T. Boll-Avetisyan, R.W.J. Kager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OCP-PLACE, a cross-linguistically well-attested constraint against pairs of consonants with shared [place], is psychologically real. Studies have shown that the processing of words violating OCP-PLACE is inhibited. Functionalists assume that OCP arises as a consequence of low-level perception: a consonant following another with the same [place] cannot be faithfully perceived as an independent unit. If functionalist theories were correct, then lexical access would be inhibited if two homorganic consonants conjoin at word boundaries—a problem that can only be solved with lexical feedback.
Here, we experimentally challenge the functional account by showing that OCP-PLACE can be used as a speech segmentation cue during pre-lexical processing without lexical feedback, and that the use relates to distributions in the input.
In Experiment 1, native listeners of Dutch located word boundaries between two labials when segmenting an artificial language. This indicates a use of OCP-LABIAL as a segmentation cue, implying a full perception of both labials. Experiment 2 shows that segmentation performance cannot solely be explained by well-formedness intuitions. Experiment 3 shows that knowledge of OCP-PLACE depends on language-specific input: in Dutch, co-occurrences of labials are under-represented, but co-occurrences of coronals are not. Accordingly, Dutch listeners fail to use OCP-CORONAL for segmentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-421
JournalLanguage and Speech
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Artificial language learning
  • OCP-Place
  • phonotactics
  • speech segmentation
  • pre-lexical processing


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