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

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Length as an Acoustic Cue in the Perception of Consonant Syllabicity

Joan C. Mora, Brian Mott

Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

This paper reports on the results of a perception experiment designed to explore the role of length in the perception of consonant syllabicity in English. The experiment tested native speakers' ability to identify members of potential minimal pairs involving a contrast between syllabic and non-syllabic [n] (lightening vs. lightning), [l] (finally vs. finely), [r] (Hungary vs. hungry) and [s] (support vs. sport). The perception test consisted of several tokens of each of the above words in which non-syllabic consonants were lengthened, syllabic consonants were shortened and schwa was deleted before a sonorant. The results reveal that lengthening the non-syllabic sonorants in finely ([l]), hungry ([r]) and lightning ([n]), produces a significant increase in the total number of tokens of such words being identified as finally, Hungary, and lightening. This is interpreted as confirming the traditional claim that length is an acoustic cue, albeit not necessarily the only one, in the perception of consonant syllabicity in English.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Mora, Joan C. / Mott, Brian (2003): "Length as an acoustic cue in the perception of consonant syllabicity", In ICPhS-15, 411-414.