15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Acoustic and Perceptual Evidence for Universal Phonological Features

Kenneth N. Stevens

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

The human speech production apparatus consists of a number of articulators or structures that have the capability of producing somewhat continuous movements within particular ranges. However, with proper adjustment of postures of the respiratory system and of certain other articulators, the properties of the sound that is generated by these movements and the human responses to this sound tend to fall into discrete categories.
   These categories form the bases for the distinctive features that potentially define the phonological contrasts in any language. This quantal aspect of articulatory/acoustic/perceptual relations arise from the properties of coupled resonators in the vocal tract, the nature of the sound sources in the vocal tract, the anatomy and physiology of vocal-tract structures, and auditory responses to sounds with spectral prominences and to the temporal properties of these sounds. In a given language, the perceptual saliency of a particular contrast may be enhanced by introducing articulatory gestures that provide acoustic cues for the contrast over and above the cues resulting from the defining gestures.
   Examples of the language-independent defining properties for a variety of features are given, as well as examples of language-dependent enhancing gestures and acoustic cues.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Stevens, Kenneth N. (2003): "Acoustic and perceptual evidence for universal phonological features", In ICPhS-15, 33-38.