Perception of familiar contrasts in unfamiliar positions
SourceThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 117, 6, (2005), pp. 3890-3901
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC BO
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
This paper investigates the perception of non-native phoneme contrasts which exist in the native language, but not in the position tested. Like English, Dutch contrasts voiced and voiceless obstruents. Unlike English, Dutch allows only voiceless obstruents in word-final position. Dutch and English listeners' accuracy on English final voicing contrasts and their use of preceding vowel duration as a voicing cue were tested. The phonetic structure of Dutch should provide the necessary experience for a native-like use of this cue. Experiment 1 showed that Dutch listeners categorized English final /zee/-/ess/, /vee/-/eff/, /bee/-/pee/, and /dee/-/tee/ contrasts in nonwords as accurately as initial contrasts, and as accurately as English listeners did, even when release bursts were removed. In experiment 2, English listeners used vowel duration as a cue for one final contrast, although it was uninformative and sometimes mismatched other voicing characteristics, whereas Dutch listeners did not. Although it should be relatively easy for them, Dutch listeners did not use vowel duration. Nevertheless, they attained native-like accuracy, and sometimes even outperformed the native listeners who were liable to be misled by uninformative vowel duration information. Thus, native-like use of cues for non-native but familiar contrasts in unfamiliar positions may hardly ever be attained.
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