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

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Perception of English Intonation by English, Spanish and Chinese Listeners

Esther Grabe (1), Burton S. Rosner (1), José E. García-Albea (2), Xaolin Zhou (3)

(1) University of Oxford, UK
(2) Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain
(3) Peking University, China

We tested the effect of native language on the perception of intonation contours. An English utterance was resynthesized with eleven intonation contours. Groups of English, Iberian Spanish, and Chinese listeners rated pairs of the stimuli for degree of difference. The responses were subjected to multidimensional scaling and a new statistical procedure, the configuration comparison test. The test revealed cross-linguistic similarities and significant differences. All listeners divided the stimuli in two groups, one ending in falling pitch and one ending in rising pitch. Within the falling group, significant cross-linguistic differences occurred in the arrangement of stimuli. In a second experiment, English, Spanish, and Chinese subjects listened to frequency-modulated sinewaves that duplicated the fundamental frequency contours used in the first experiment. Listeners again divided the stimuli into falling and rising groups, but no convincing effect of native language appeared. The speech and FM stimuli seemed more closely related perceptually in the Chinese than in the English or Spanish data.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Grabe, Esther / Rosner, Burton S. / García-Albea, José E. / Zhou, Xaolin (2003): "Perception of English intonation by English, Spanish and Chinese listeners", In ICPhS-15, 763-766.