Detecting silent pauses in speech. A new tool for measuring on-line lexical and semantic processing

S Mattys, CW Pleydell-Pearce, JF Melhorn, SE Whitecross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

17 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we introduce pause detection (PD) as a new tool for studying the on-line integration of lexical and semantic information during speech comprehension. When listeners were asked to detect 200-ms pauses inserted into the last words of spoken sentences, their detection latencies were influenced by the lexical-semantic information provided by the sentences. Listeners took longer to detect a pause when it was inserted within a word that had multiple potential endings, rather than a unique ending, in the context of the sentence. An event-related potential (ERP) variant of the PD procedure revealed brain correlates of pauses as early as 101 to 125 ms following pause onset and patterns of lexical-semantic integration that mirrored those obtained with PD within 160 ms of pause onset. Thus, both the behavioral and the electrophysiological responses to pauses suggest that lexical and semantic processes are highly interactive and that their integration occurs rapidly during speech comprehension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958 - 964
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Volume16 (12)
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Blackwell

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