“What you encode is not necessarily what you store”: Evidence for sparse feature representations from mismatch negativity
The present study examines whether vowels embedded in complex stimuli may possess underspecified representations in the mental lexicon. A second goal was to assess the possible interference of the lexical status of stimuli under study. Minimal pairs of German nouns differing only in the stressed vowels [e], [ø], [o], and derived pseudowords, were used to measure the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) in a passive oddball-paradigm. The differing vowels were chosen such that the place of articulation information was conflicting vs. non-conflicting in the framework of models assuming underspecified representations in the mental lexicon (i.e. minimizing featural information by omitting redundant information in order to ensure efficient speech processing), whereas models assuming fully specified phonological representations would predict equal levels of conflict in all possible contrasts. The observed pattern of MMN amplitude differences was in accordance to predictions of models assuming underspecified phonological representations. As the possible interferences by other levels of linguistic processing was demonstrated, it seems favourable to use pseudowords for investigating phonological effects by means of MMN.
from Brain Research