Sixth European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Budapest, Hungary
September 5-9, 1999

Phonotactics in the Perception of Japanese Vowel Length: Evidence for Long-Distance Dependencies

Elliott Moreton (1), Shigeaki Amano (2)

(1) NTT Communication Science Laboratories and University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
(2) NTT Communication Science Laboratories, Japan

These experiments investigate whether the perceptual boundary between [a] and [a:] is affected by the differing phonotactics of the Sino-Japanese and Foreign strata of the Japanese lexicon. We presented a range of edited natural vowels from [a] to [a:] at the end of carrier nonwords of the form [CoC'__] and asked subjects to judge whether the final vowel was long or short, while C and C' were varied to make 9 carriers ranging from very Sino-Japanese-like to very Foreign-like. The perceptual boundary between [a] and [a:] was affected by both C and C', shifting through about 20 msec—a larger and more robust effect than was obtained in a word-superiority experiment with the same paradigm and subjects. These results cast doubt on explanations of phonotactic effects based on lexical-activation spreading. The influence of C at a distance of three phonemes from the ambiguous segment cannot be explained by simple segment-to-segment transitional probabilities.

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Bibliographic reference.  Moreton, Elliott / Amano, Shigeaki (1999): "Phonotactics in the perception of Japanese vowel length: evidence for long-distance dependencies", In EUROSPEECH'99, 2679-2682.