Articulatory distinctiveness of vowels and consonants: A data-driven approach

Jun Wang, Jordan R. Green, Ashok Samal, Yana Yunusova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Purpose: To quantify the articulatory distinctiveness of 8 major English vowels and 11 English consonants based on tongue and lip movement time series data using a data-driven approach. Method: Tongue and lip movements of 8 vowels and 11 consonants from 10 healthy talkers were collected. First, classification accuracies were obtained using 2 complementary approaches: (a) Procrustes analysis and (b) a support vector machine. Procrustes distance was then used to measure the articulatory distinctiveness among vowels and consonants. Finally, the distance (distinctiveness) matrices of different vowel pairs and consonant pairs were used to derive articulatory vowel and consonant spaces using multidimensional scaling. Results: Vowel classification accuracies of 91.67% and 89.05% and consonant classification accuracies of 91.37% and 88.94% were obtained using Procrustes analysis and a support vector machine, respectively. Articulatory vowel and consonant spaces were derived based on the pairwise Procrustes distances. Conclusions: The articulatory vowel space derived in this study resembled the long-standing descriptive articulatory vowel space defined by tongue height and advancement. The articulatory consonant space was consistent with feature-based classification of English consonants. The derived articulatory vowel and consonant spaces may have clinical implications, including serving as an objective measure of the severity of articulatory impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1539-1551
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Articulatory consonant space
  • Articulatory vowel space
  • Procrustes analysis
  • Speech production
  • Support vector machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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