Volume 129, Issue 2, February 2011
Index of content:
- SPEECH PERCEPTION 
129(2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3514419View Description Hide Description
It was hypothesized that the retrieval of prosodic and phonemic information from the acoustic signal is facilitated when prosodic information is encoded by co-occurring suprasegmental cues. To test the hypothesis, two-choice speeded classification experiments were conducted, which examined processing interaction between prosodic phrase-boundary vs stop-place information in speakers of Southern British English. Results confirmed that the degree of interaction between boundary and stop-place information diminished when the pre-boundary vowel was signaled by duration and F 0, compared to when it was signaled by either duration or F 0 alone. It is argued that the relative ease of retrieval of prosodic and phonemic information arose from advantages of prosodic cue integration.
Perceptual weighting of individual and concurrent cues for sentence intelligibility: Frequency, envelope, and fine structure129(2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3531954View Description Hide Description
The speech signal may be divided into frequency bands, each containing temporal properties of the envelope and fine structure. For maximal speech understanding, listeners must allocate their perceptual resources to the most informative acoustic properties. Understanding this perceptual weighting is essential for the design of assistive listening devices that need to preserve these important speech cues. This study measured the perceptual weighting of young normal-hearing listeners for the envelope and fine structure in each of three frequency bands for sentence materials. Perceptual weights were obtained under two listening contexts: (1) when each acoustic property was presented individually and (2) when multiple acoustic properties were available concurrently. The processing method was designed to vary the availability of each acoustic property independently by adding noise at different levels. Perceptual weights were determined by correlating a listener’s performance with the availability of each acoustic property on a trial-by-trial basis. Results demonstrated that weights were (1) equal when acoustic properties were presented individually and (2) biased toward envelope and mid-frequency information when multiple properties were available. Results suggest a complex interaction between the available acoustic properties and the listening context in determining how best to allocate perceptual resources when listening to speech in noise.
The perception of Arabic and Japanese short and long vowels by native speakers of Arabic, Japanese, and Persian129(2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3531801View Description Hide Description
This study examines the perception of short and long vowels in Arabic and Japanese by three groups of listeners differing in their first languages (L1): Arabic, Japanese, and Persian. While Persian uses the same alphabet as Arabic and Iranian students learn Arabic in school, the two languages are typologically unrelated. Further, unlike Arabic or Japanese, vowel length may no longer be contrastive in modern Persian. In this study, a question of interest was whether Persian listeners’ foreign language learning experience or Japanese listeners’ L1 phonological experience might help them to accurately process short and long vowels in Arabic. In Experiment 1, Arabic and Japanese listeners were more accurate than Persian listeners in discriminating vowel length contrasts in their own L1 only. In Experiment 2, Arabic and Japanese listeners were more accurate than Persian listeners in identifying the length categories in the “other” unknown language as well as in their own L1. The difference in the listeners’ perceptual performance between the two experiments supports the view that long-term L1 representations may be invoked to a greater extent in the identification than discrimination test. The present results highlight the importance of selecting the appropriate test for assessing cross-language speech perception.
Language specificity in the perception of voiceless sibilant fricatives in Japanese and English: Implications for cross-language differences in speech-sound development129(2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3518716View Description Hide Description
Both English and Japanese have two voiceless sibilant fricatives, an anterior fricative /s/ contrasting with a more posterior fricative /∫/. When children acquire sibilant fricatives, English children typically substitute [s] for /∫/, whereas Japanese children typically substitute [∫] for /s/. This study examined English- and Japanese-speaking adults’ perception of children’s productions of voiceless sibilant fricatives to investigate whether the apparent asymmetry in the acquisition of voiceless sibilant fricatives reported previously in the two languages was due in part to how adults perceive children’s speech. The results of this study show that adult speakers of English and Japanese weighed acoustic parameters differently when identifying fricatives produced by children and that these differences explain, in part, the apparent cross-language asymmetry in fricative acquisition. This study shows that generalizations about universal and language-specific patterns in speech-sound development cannot be determined without considering all sources of variation including speech perception.
129(2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3531840View Description Hide Description
In tone languages there are potential conflicts in the perception of lexical tone and intonation, as both depend mainly on the differences in fundamental frequency (F0) patterns. The present study investigated the acoustic cues associated with the perception of sentences as questions or statements in Cantonese, as a function of the lexical tone in sentence final position. Cantonese listeners performed intonation identification tasks involving complete sentences, isolated final syllables, and sentences without the final syllable (carriers). Sensitivity (d′ scores) were similar for complete sentences and final syllables but were significantly lower for carriers. Sensitivity was also affected by tone identity. These findings show that the perception of questions and statements relies primarily on the F0 characteristics of the final syllables (local F0 cues). A measure of response bias (c) provided evidence for a general bias toward the perception of statements. Logistic regression analyses showed that utterances were accurately classified as questions or statements by using average F0 and F0 interval. Average F0 of carriers (global F0 cue) was also found to be a reliable secondary cue. These findings suggest that the use of F0 cues for the perception of intonation question in tonal languages is likely to be language-specific.