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

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003


Cross-Language Perception of Nonnative Vowels: Phonological and Phonetic Effects of Listeners' Native Languages

Catherine T. Best (1), Pierre Halle (2), Ocke-Schwen Bohn (3), Alice Faber (4)

(1) Wesleyan University, USA
(2) LPE/CNRS-Paris V, France
(3) Aarhus University, Denmark
(4) Haskins Laboratories, USA

Several theoretical models predict that nonnative speech discrimination depends on phonetic fit as well as phonological correspondence to native phonemes. Languages differ both phonologically and phonetically, e.g., high vowels differ among English, French, Danish, Norwegian. All use /i u/, all except English use /y/, but only Norwegian has /ʉ/. These languages realize /i y u/ differently. American, Danish and French listeners categorized and discriminated Norwegian /i/-/y/, /y/-/u/, /y/-/ʉ/, /ʉ/-/u/. Danes assimilated the first three to native contrasts, /ʉ/-/u/ as an /y/ goodness difference, and discriminated all near ceiling. French listeners assimilated /y/-/u/, /y/-/ʉ/, /ʉ-u/ to native contrasts, Americans assimilated /y/-/u/ and /y/-/ʉ/ to native contrasts, /ʉ-u/ to allophones of native /u/. They discriminated those contrasts near ceiling. French listeners assimilated /i/-/y/ as an /i/ goodness difference, discriminating it worse than Danes but better than Americans, who assimilated it as equally-good /i/s. Results coincide with the languages' phonological and phonetic properties.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Best, Catherine T. / Halle, Pierre / Bohn, Ocke-Schwen / Faber, Alice (2003): "Cross-language perception of nonnative vowels: phonological and phonetic effects of listeners' native languages", In ICPhS-15, 2889-2892.