Formant transitions in fricative identification: The role of native fricative inventory
Wagner, A., Ernestus, M., & Cutler, A.
Formant transitions in fricative identification: The role of native fricative inventory. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 120
(4), 2267-2277. doi:10.1121/1.2335422.
The distribution of energy across the noise spectrum provides the primary cues for the identification
of a fricative. Formant transitions have been reported to play a role in identification of some
fricatives, but the combined results so far are conflicting. We report five experiments testing the
hypothesis that listeners differ in their use of formant transitions as a function of the presence of
spectrally similar fricatives in their native language. Dutch, English, German, Polish, and Spanish
native listeners performed phoneme monitoring experiments with pseudowords containing either
coherent or misleading formant transitions for the fricatives / s / and / f /. Listeners of German and
Dutch, both languages without spectrally similar fricatives, were not affected by the misleading
formant transitions. Listeners of the remaining languages were misled by incorrect formant
transitions. In an untimed labeling experiment both Dutch and Spanish listeners provided goodness
ratings that revealed sensitivity to the acoustic manipulation. We conclude that all listeners may be
sensitive to mismatching information at a low auditory level, but that they do not necessarily take
full advantage of all available systematic acoustic variation when identifying phonemes. Formant
transitions may be most useful for listeners of languages with spectrally similar fricatives.