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Word segmentation refers to the challenge for listeners in general and language learners in particular to isolate words from fluent speech. It is based on the premises that speakers seldom mark word boundaries with silent pauses and that the degree of coarticulation between syllables straddling a word boundary is more or less the same as that between syllables inside of a word. While neither premise is entirely correct, word segmentation remains a stumbling block for both psycholinguistic theories of speech recognition and the efficiency of automatic speech recognition software.
How Continuous Is Speech?
Although speech contains many brief pauses (well under 100 milliseconds), these are usually associated with the production of certain speech sounds, mainly stop consonants. Longer pauses occur as well, but they tend to be ...