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

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

!Xóõ Click Perception by English, Isizulu, and Sesotho Listeners

Catherine T. Best (1), Anthony Traill (2), Allyson Carter (3), K. David Harrison (4), Alice Faber (4)

(1) Wesleyan University, USA
(2) University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
(3) University of Arizona, USA
(4) Haskins Laboratories, USA

Many, though not all, nonnative phonological contrasts pose discrimination difficulties. The Perceptual Assimilation Model attributes discrimination differences to listeners' assimilations of nonnative phones to their native phonologies, which vary across languages. We examined perception of two !Xóõ click contrasts by American English speakers and speakers of Isizulu and Sesotho, African click languages that lack the target contrasts. The Africans should assimilate !Xóõ clicks to native ones and discriminate accordingly; Americans should perceive them as nonspeech and discriminate them well. Isizulu's click system is richer than Sesotho's, so Isizulu speakers should perform better on at least one contrast. Americans should ex-cel on contrasts that Africans assimilate to a single click. As predicted, Isizulu listeners assimilated !Xóõ clicks to native clicks most often, Americans heard nonspeech most often. Sesotho listeners were poorest on one contrast they had difficulty categorizing. Americans excelled on the other, which the Africans assimilated to a single click.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Best, Catherine T. / Traill, Anthony / Carter, Allyson / Harrison, K. David / Faber, Alice (2003): "!Xóõ click perception by English, Isizulu, and Sesotho listeners", In ICPhS-15, 853-856.