ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

Senate House, London, UK
June 15-17, 2005

English and French Native Language Influence on the Perception of Syllable Prominence in German

Volker Dellwo (1), Petra Wagner (2)

(1) University College London, UK; (2) University of Bonn, Germany

Syllable prominence perception is highly influenced by the native language background of the listener. When listeners perceive speech in their native language, the acoustic information of a syllable competes with expectations about its perceptual prominence, triggered by language specific higher level knowledge (e.g. sentence or word stress, part of speech, syntactic postition, etc.). Current models assume that listeners with no previous experience in a particular language (henceforth: non-speakers) are not distracted by any higher level information; their perception is based merely on the acoustic signal. For this reason non-speakers are often regarded as being able to judge the acoustic information in the speech signal on a neutral basis. This study argues that prominence perception in non-speakers is greatly influenced by the listeners' native language background and the degree of competence in the target language. For example, it is expected that listeners of French with a so called Ôstress deafness' will perceive syllable prominence in German speech differently than listeners of English, a language in which stress is of major prosodic importance. It is unclear, whether and to what degree competence in the target language (German) has an effect on syllable prominence perception of listeners with, in this respect, such a diverse language background like French and English. In this study the syllable prominence perception of French and English listeners with different degrees of competence in German (no knowledge, basic knowledge, and fluency) was investigated in a syllable prominence rating experiment. Results thus far indicate that a) listeners' native language background has significant influence on the perception of syllable prominence in German and b) knowledge of the target language shows very diverse effects according to the different native language background (French and English).

Bibliographic reference.  Dellwo, Volker / Wagner, Petra (2005): "English and French native language influence on the perception of syllable prominence in German", In PSP2005, 118 (abstract).