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Cross-language perceptual similarity predicts categorial discrimination of American vowels by naïve Japanese listeners
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Current speech perception models propose that relative perceptual difficulties with non-native segmental contrasts can be predicted from cross-language phonetic similarities. Japanese (J) listeners performed a categorical discrimination task in which nine contrasts (six adjacent height pairs, three front/back pairs) involving eight American (AE)vowels [iː, ɪ, ɛ, æː, ɑː, ʌ, ʊ, uː] in /hVbə/ disyllables were tested. The listeners also completed a perceptual assimilation task (categorization as J vowels with category goodness ratings). Perceptual assimilation patterns (quantified as categorization overlap scores) were highly predictive of discrimination accuracy (rs = 0.93). Results suggested that J listeners used both spectral and temporal information in discriminating vowelcontrasts.
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