14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Timing of Perception of Vocalic Distinctive Features: Implications for Vowel System Universals

Natasha Warner

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

This paper examines factors which motivate the use of certain distinctive features in vowels across languages. Features which are cross-linguistically common may be those which listeners are able to perceive based on a brief portion of the acoustic signal, perhaps around a point of abrupt acoustic change. Past work on English vowels has supported this hypothesis. This paper presents results from a gating study of Dutch vowels on perception of several less common vocalic distinctions. Hierarchical clustering analyses reveal that the long/short distinction and the four-way height distinction require more of the signal to perceive than the high/low or front/back distinctions, supporting the importance of rapid perceptibility. However, front rounded vowels are distinguishable from other vowels even based on a very brief signal, contradicting the prediction.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Warner, Natasha (1999): "Timing of perception of vocalic distinctive features: implications for vowel system universals", In ICPhS-14, 1961-1964.