The phonetic characteristics of words are influenced by lexical characteristics, including word frequency and phonological neighborhood density (Baese-Berke & Goldrick, 2009; Wright, 2004). In our previous research, we replicated this effect with neurologically healthy young adults (Munson & Solomon, 2004). In research with the same set of participants, we showed that speech sounded less natural when produced with bite blocks than with an unconstrained jaw (Solomon, Makashay, & Munson, 2016). The current study combined these concepts to examine whether a bite-block perturbation exaggerated or reduced the effects of lexical factors on normal speech. Ten young adults produced more challenging lexical stimuli (i.e. infrequent words with many phonological neighbors) with shorter vowels and more disperse F1/F2 spaces than less challenging words (i.e. frequent words with few phonological neighbors). This difference was exaggerated when speaking with a 10-mm bite block, though the interaction between jaw positioning and lexical competition did not achieve statistical significance. Results indicate that talkers alter vowel characteristics in response both to biomechanical and linguistic demands, and that the effect of lexical characteristics is robust to the articulatory reorganization required for successful bite-block compensation.


jaw stabilization, bite block, lexical complexity, speech perturbation, vowel acoustics