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The uptake of spectral and temporal cues in vowel perception is rapidly influenced by context

Reinisch, E., & Sjerps, M. J. (2013). The uptake of spectral and temporal cues in vowel perception is rapidly influenced by context. Journal of Phonetics, 41, 101-116. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2013.01.002.
Speech perception is dependent on auditory information within phonemes such as spectral or temporal cues. The perception of those cues, however, is affected by auditory information in surrounding context (e.g., a fast context sentence can make a target vowel sound subjectively longer). In a two-by-two design the current experiments investigated when these different factors influence vowel perception. Dutch listeners categorized minimal word pairs such as /tɑk/–/taːk/ (“branch”–“task”) embedded in a context sentence. Critically, the Dutch /ɑ/–/aː/ contrast is cued by spectral and temporal information. We varied the second formant (F2) frequencies and durations of the target vowels. Independently, we also varied the F2 and duration of all segments in the context sentence. The timecourse of cue uptake on the targets was measured in a printed-word eye-tracking paradigm. Results show that the uptake of spectral cues slightly precedes the uptake of temporal cues. Furthermore, acoustic manipulations of the context sentences influenced the uptake of cues in the target vowel immediately. That is, listeners did not need additional time to integrate spectral or temporal cues of a target sound with auditory information in the context. These findings argue for an early locus of contextual influences in speech perception.
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