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Strange_et_al_2004 - Acoustic and perceptual similarity of...

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Acoustic and perceptual similarity of North German and American English vowels Winifred Strange a) Ph.D. Program in Speech and Hearing Sciences, The City University of New York—Graduate School and University Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 10016-4309 Ocke-Schwen Bohn English Department, Aarhus University, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark Sonja A. Trent and Kanae Nishi Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, 4202 Fowler Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33620 ~ Received 30 September 2003; revised 26 January 2004; accepted 26 January 2004 ! Current theories of cross-language speech perception claim that patterns of perceptual assimilation of non-native segments to native categories predict relative difficulties in learning to perceive ~ and produce ! non-native phones. Cross-language spectral similarity of North German ~ NG ! and American English ~ AE ! vowels produced in isolated hVC ~ a ! ~ di ! syllables ~ study 1 ! and in hVC syllables embedded in a short sentence ~ study 2 ! was determined by discriminant analyses, to examine the extent to which acoustic similarity was predictive of perceptual similarity patterns. The perceptual assimilation of NG vowels to native AE vowel categories by AE listeners with no German language experience was then assessed directly. Both studies showed that acoustic similarity of AE and NG vowels did not always predict perceptual similarity, especially for ‘‘new’’ NG front rounded vowels and for ‘‘similar’’ NG front and back mid and mid-low vowels. Both acoustic and perceptual similarity of NG and AE vowels varied as a function of the prosodic context, although vowel duration differences did not affect perceptual assimilation patterns. When duration and spectral similarity were in conflict, AE listeners assimilated vowels on the basis of spectral similarity in both prosodic contexts. © 2004 Acoustical Society of America. @ DOI: 10.1121/1.1687832 # PACS numbers: 43.71.Hw, 43.70.Kv, 43.71.Es, 43.70.Fq @ RD # Pages: 1791–1807 I. INTRODUCTION In recent years, there has been increased interest in cross-language comparisons of phonetic categories, growing out of the well-documented problems that adult second lan- guage ~ L2 ! learners have in acquiring a new phonological system. In his Speech Learning Model ~ SLM ! , Flege ~ 1995 ! claims that continuing problems with ‘‘accented’’ production of phonetic segments can be attributed in large part to L2 learners’ representation of the L2 segments as equivalent to ‘‘similar’’ segments in the native language ~ L1 ! . That is, if the L2 phones are sufficiently similar to L1 phones, they will be perceptually assimilated to those native categories, with the result that both L1 and L2 segments are produced differ- ently from native monolingual speakers’ utterances. If, how- ever, L2 phones are sufficiently dissimilar from any L1 cat- egory ~ i.e., ‘‘new’’ ! , the L2 learner will ~ eventually ! establish distinct L1 and L2 phonetic categories, and production of the L2 segments will become more native-like.
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