The prosodic property of lexical stress affects eye movements during silent reading

Jane Ashby, Charles Clifton
Cognition 2005, 96 (3): B89-100
The present study examined lexical stress in the context of silent reading by measuring eye movements. We asked whether lexical stress registers in the eye movement record and, if so, why. The study also tested the implicit prosody hypothesis, or the idea that readers construct a prosodic contour during silent reading. Participants read high and low frequency target words with one or two stressed syllables embedded in sentences. Lexical stress affected eye movements, such that words with two stressed syllables took longer to read and received more fixations than words with one stressed syllable. Findings offer empirical support for the implicit prosody hypothesis and suggest that stress assignment may be the completing phase of lexical access, at least in terms of eye movement control.

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