The perception of vowel quantity: A cross-linguistic investigation
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation investigates the language specific versus universal nature of perceptual cues. Perceptual cues to vowel quantity were investigated in a series of cross-linguistic perception experiments with native speakers of Thai, Japanese, German, and Spanish. Vowel quantity as a phonological category lends itself to such an investigation since multiple cues have been shown to influence the perception of vowel length, which is usually taken to be the primary indicator of a difference in vowel quantity. It is well known that cues other than vowel duration, such as a difference in vowel quality or a certain F0 contour may co-occur with the durational difference. Furthermore, the presence of a postvocalic consonant and the cues associated with it such as consonant-vowel (CV) and vowel-consonant (VC) transitions as well as the presence of an adjacent syllable have been shown to influence the perception of vowel length. Five perception experiments were conducted with native speakers of the four different languages to investigate the influence of duration, F0, vowel quality, a postvocalic consonant, and an adjacent syllable on the perception of vowel length. The results from 12 listeners of each Thai, Japanese, German, and Spanish show language-specific as well as universal tendencies in the perception of vowel quantity. While the cues associated with quality, a postvocalic consonant, and an adjacent syllable can be seen as universally accessible since they influenced the judgment of all listeners to some degree, F0 as perceptual cue to vowel quantity was language specific as it was only accessible to listeners with a specific language background that associates F0 with vowel quantity.