Kudera, Jacek; Georgis, Philip; Möbius, Bernd; Avgustinova, Tania; Klakow, Dietrich

Phonetic Distance and Surprisal in Multilingual Priming: Evidence from Slavic

Proc. Interspeech, pp. 3944-3948, 2021.

This study reveals the relation between surprisal, phonetic distance, and latency based on a multilingual, short-term priming framework. Four Slavic languages (Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, and Russian) are investigated across two priming conditions: associative and phonetic priming, involving true cognates and near-homophones, respectively. This research is grounded in the methodology of information theory and proposes new methods for quantifying differences between meaningful lexical primes and targets for closely related languages. It also outlines the influence of phonetic distance between cognate and noncognate pairs of primes and targets on response times in a cross-lingual lexical decision task. The experimental results show that phonetic distance moderates response times only in Polish and Czech, whereas the surprisal-based correspondence effect is an accurate predictor of latency for all tested languages. The information-theoretic approach of quantifying feature-based alternations between Slavic cognates and near-homophones appears to be a valid method for latency moderation in the auditory modality. The outcomes of this study suggest that the surprisal-based (un)expectedness of spoken stimuli is an accurate predictor of human performance in multilingual lexical decision tasks.