Parsing and Metrical Structure: Where Phonology Meets Processing


Speakers/listeners have (unconscious) knowledge about sound regularities of their native language, which includes metrical structure: where do stressed syllables occur in words? In many languages, stress falls near the edges of words: on the initial, final, or prefinal syllable. It has been hypothesized that this "delimitative" property of word stress assists listeners when they parse speech into words. In an initial stress language, for example, every stressed syllable can be safely taken to mark the beginning of a new word. Experimental evidence for the "Metrical Segmentation Hypothesis" comes mainly from initial stress languages; metrical segmentation in non-initial stress languages has hardly been investigated. Hence, it is largely unknown how language-specific metrical knowledge is that listeners use when parsing speech: do listeners of non-initial stress languages use different cues that specifically fit the metrical structure of their native language? This project has the goal of answering this question by adopting a cross-linguistic perspective: it investigates a much wider sample of languages than has been studied thus far. Moreover, it adds an acquisition perspective on parsing, investigating origins of language-specific metrical structure in first and second language acquisition. Combining a cross-linguistic approach with acquisition increases chances of learning how fundamental properties of human language are rooted in language processing.



Chapter in book

  • R.W.J. Kager, B. Keij, H.G. van der Hulst, J. Heinz, R. Goedemans(2016): Dimensions of Phonological Stress pp. 291 - 310 , Cambridge, UK

Scientific article

  • R.W.J. Kager(2012): Stress in windows Lingua pp. 1454 - 1493 ISSN: 0024-3841.
  • R.W.J. Kager, V. Martínez-Paricio(2015): The binary-to-ternary rhythmic continuum in stress typology Phonology pp. 459 - 504 ISSN: 0952-6757.
  • R.W.J. Kager, V. Martínez-Paricio(2016): Metrically conditioned pitch and layered feet in Chugach Alutiiq Loquens pp. 1 - 13 ISSN: 2386-2637.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. R.W.J. Kager

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Departement Moderne Talen

Team members

Drs. B.M. Keij, Dr. A. Kijak, Dr. T.O. Lentz, Dr. S. van Ommen


01/10/2010 to 31/12/2014