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Cross-language similarities and differences in the uptake of place information

Wagner, A. (2013). Cross-language similarities and differences in the uptake of place information. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 133, 4256-4267. doi:10.1121/1.4802904.
Cross-language differences in the use of coarticulatory cues for the identification of fricatives have been demonstrated in a phoneme detection task: Listeners with perceptually similar fricative pairs in their native phoneme inventories (English, Polish, Spanish) relied more on cues from vowels than listeners with perceptually more distinct fricative contrasts (Dutch and German). The present gating study further investigated these cross-language differences and addressed three questions. (1) Are there cross-language differences in informativeness of parts of the speech signal regarding place of articulation for fricative identification? (2) Are such cross-language differences fricative-specific, or do they extend to the perception of place of articulation for plosives? (3) Is such language-specific uptake of information based on cues preceding or following the consonantal constriction? Dutch, Italian, Polish, and Spanish listeners identified fricatives and plosives in gated CV and VC syllables. The results showed cross-language differences in the informativeness of coarticulatory cues for fricative identification: Spanish and Polish listeners extracted place of articulation information from shorter portions of VC syllables. No language-specific differences were found for plosives, suggesting that greater reliance on coarticulatory cues did not generalize to other phoneme types. The language-specific differences for fricatives were based on coarticulatory cues into the consonant.
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