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Perception of initial obstruent voicing is influenced by gestural organization

Abstract : Cross-language differences in phonetic settings for phonological contrasts of stop voicing have posed a challenge for attempts to relate specific phonological features to specific phonetic details. We probe the phonetic-phonological relationship for voicing contrasts more broadly, analyzing in particular their relevance to nonnative speech perception, from two theoretical perspectives: feature geometry and articulatory phonology. Because these perspectives differ in assumptions about temporal/phasing relationships among features/gestures within syllable onsets, we undertook a cross-language investigation on perception of obstruent (stop, fricative) voicing contrasts in three nonnative onsets that use a common set of features/gestures but with differing time-coupling. Listeners of English and French, which differ in their phonetic settings for word-initial stop voicing distinctions, were tested on perception of three onset types, all nonnative to both English and French, that differ in how initial obstruent voicing is coordinated with a lateral feature/gesture and additional obstruent features/gestures. The targets, listed from least complex to most complex onsets, were: a lateral fricative voicing distinction (Zulu //-//), a laterally-released affricate voicing distinction (Tlingit //-//), and a coronal stop voicing distinction in stop+// clusters (Hebrew //-//). English and French listeners' performance reflected the differences in their native languages' stop voicing distinctions, compatible with prior perceptual studies on singleton consonant onsets. However, both groups' abilities to perceive voicing as a separable parameter also varied systematically with the structure of the target onsets, supporting the notion that the gestural organization of syllable onsets systematically affects perception of initial voicing distinctions.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 5:26:52 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 22, 2022 - 2:47:12 PM

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Catherine T. Best, Pierre Hallé. Perception of initial obstruent voicing is influenced by gestural organization. Journal of Phonetics, Elsevier, 2010, 38, pp.109-126. ⟨10.1016/j.wocn.2009.09.001⟩. ⟨halshs-00683110⟩

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