8th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Geneva, Switzerland
September 1-4, 2003


Reaction Time as an Indicator of Discrete Intonational Contrasts in English

Aoju Chen

University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands

This paper reports a perceptual study using a semantically motivated identification task in which we investigated the nature of two pairs of intonational contrasts in English: (1) normal High accent vs. emphatic High accent; (2) early peak alignment vs. late peak alignment. Unlike previous inquiries, the present study employs an on-line method using the Reaction Time measurement, in addition to the measurement of response frequencies. Regarding the peak height continuum, the mean RTs are shortest for within-category identification but longest for across-category identification. As for the peak alignment contrast, no identification boundary emerges and the mean RTs only reflect a difference between peaks aligned with the vowel onset and peaks aligned elsewhere. We conclude that the peak height contrast is discrete but the previously claimed discreteness of the peak alignment contrast is not borne out.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Chen, Aoju (2003): "Reaction time as an indicator of discrete intonational contrasts in English", In EUROSPEECH-2003, 97-100.