Unintended imitation in nonword repetition

Juliane Kappes*, Annette Baumgaertner, Claudia Peschke, Wolfram Ziegler

*Corresponding author for this work
32 Citations (Scopus)


Verbal repetition is conventionally considered to require motor-reproduction of only the phonologically relevant content of a perceived linguistic stimulus, while imitation of incidental acoustic properties of the stimulus is not an explicit part of this task. Exemplar-based theories of speech processing, however, would predict that imitation beyond linguistic reproduction may occur in word repetition. Five experiments were conducted in which verbal audio-motor translations had to be performed under different conditions. Nonwords varying in phonemic content, in vocal pitch (F0), and in speaking style (schwa-syllable expression) were presented. We experimentally varied the factors response delay (repetition vs. shadowing), intention-to-repeat (repetition vs. pseudo-naming), and phonological load (repetition vs. transformation). The responses of ten healthy participants were examined for phonemic accuracy and for traces of para-phonological imitation. Two aphasic patients with phonological impairments were also included, to find out if lesions to left anterior or posterior perisylvian cortex interfere with imitation. In the healthy participants, significant imitation of both F0 and phonetic style was observed, with markedly stronger effects for the latter. Strong imitation was also found in an aphasic patient with a lesion to left anterior perisylvian cortex, whereas almost no imitation occurred in a patient with a lesion to the posterior language area. The degree of unintended imitation was modulated by each of the three independent factors introduced here. The results are discussed on the background of cognitive and neurolinguistic theories of imitation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)140-151
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 12.2009

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience

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