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Perceptual relevance of prevoicing in Dutch

Van Alphen, P. M. (2004). Perceptual relevance of prevoicing in Dutch. Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
In this dissertation the perceptual relevance of prevoicing in Dutch was investigated. Prevoicing is the presence of vocal fold vibration during the closure of initial voiced plosives (negative voice onset time). The presence or absence of prevoicing is generally used to describe the difference between voiced and voiceless Dutch plosives. The first experiment described in this dissertation showed that prevoicing is frequently absent in Dutch and that several factors affect the production of prevoicing. A detailed acoustic analysis of the voicing distinction identified several acoustic correlates of voicing. Prevoicing appeared to be by far the best predictor. Perceptual classification data revealed that prevoicing was indeed the strongest cue that listeners use when classifying plosives as voiced or voiceless. In the cases where prevoicing was absent, other acoustic cues influenced classification, such that some of these tokens were still perceived as being voiced. In the second part of this dissertation the influence of prevoicing variation on spoken-word recognition was examined. In several cross-modal priming experiments two types of prevoicing variation were contrasted: a difference between the presence and absence of prevoicing (6 versus 0 periods of prevoicing) and a difference in the amount of prevoicing (12 versus 6 periods). All these experiments indicated that primes with 12 and 6 periods of prevoicing had the same effect on lexical decisions to the visual targets. The primes without prevoicing had a different effect, but only when their voiceless counterparts were real words. Phonetic detail appears to influence lexical access only when it is useful: In Dutch, the presence versus absence of prevoicing is informative, while the amount of prevoicing is not.

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