The words making up a speaker’s mental lexicon may be stored as abstract phonological representations or else they may be stored as detailed acoustic-phonetic representations. The speaker’s articulatory gestures intended to represent a word show relatively high variability in spontaneous speech. The aim of this paper is to explore the acoustic-phonetic patterns of the Hungarian word
‘then, at that time’. Ten speakers’ recorded spontaneous speech with a total duration of 255 minutes and containing 286 occurrences of akkor were submitted to analysis. Durational and frequency patterns were measured by means of the Praat software. The results obtained show higher variability both within and across speakers than it had been expected. Both the durations of the words and those of the speech sounds, as well as the vowel formants, turned out to significantly differ across speakers. In addition, the results showed considerable within-speaker variation as well. The correspondence between variability in the objective acoustic-phonetic data and the flexibility and adaptive nature of the mental representation of a word will be discussed.For the perception experiments, two speakers of the previous experiment were selected whose 48 words were then used as speech material. The listeners had to judge the quality of the words they heard using a five-point scale. The results confirmed that the listeners used diverse strategies and representations depending on the acoustic-phonetic parameters of the series of occurrences of
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