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

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


Perceptual Similarity among Nasals Varying in Place of Articulation: A Multidimensional Scaling Analysis

James D. Harnsberger

Speech Research Laboratory, Indiana University, USA

To examine perceptual similarity in cross-language speech perception as a multidimensional metric, an AXB classification test using nasal consonants from Malayalam ([m], [ṇ], [n], [ɳ], [ɲ], [ŋ]) was administered to three sets of listener groups with common coronal nasal inventories: dental-retroflex (Marathi, Punjabi), alveolar-retroflex (Tamil, Oriya), and alveolar (Bengali, American English). A two dimensional multidimensional scaling analysis of the results showed several interesting patterns. First, cross-linguistically, the stimuli frequently clustered into three groups, {[m]}, {[ṇ], [n], [ɳ]}, and {[ɲ], [ŋ]}. Second, language-specific differences were observed that were not predictable from the test groups' nasal inventories. The dental-retroflex and alveolar groups showed intra-group differences in their clustering of stimuli and weighting of both perceptual dimensions, leading to language-specific perceptual spaces. Only the alveolarretroflex group spaces were similarly organized. The results demonstrate that descriptions of native categories must include language-specific weighting of acoustic cues.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Harnsberger, James D. (1999): "Perceptual similarity among nasals varying in place of articulation: a multidimensional scaling analysis", In ICPhS-14, 2065-2068.