Effects of consonantal context on perceptual assimilation of American English vowels by Japanese listeners

Winifred Strange, Reiko Akahane-Yamada, Rieko Kubo, Sonja A. Trent, Kanae Nishi

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38 Scopus citations


This study investigated the extent to which adult Japanese listeners' perceived phonetic similarity of American English (AE) and Japanese (J) vowels varied with consonantal context. Four AE speakers produced multiple instances of the 11 AE vowels in six syllabic contexts /b-b, b-p, d-d, d-t, g-g, g-k/ embedded in a short carrier sentence. Twenty-four native speakers of Japanese were asked to categorize each vowel utterance as most similar to one of 18 Japanese categories [five one-mora vowels, five two-mora vowels, plus/ei, ou/ and one-mora and two-mora vowels in palatalized consonant CV syllables, Cja(a), Cju(u), Cjo(o)]. They then rated the "category goodness" of the AE vowel to the selected Japanese category on a seven-point scale. None of the 11 AE vowels was assimilated unanimously to a single J response category in all context/speaker conditions; consistency in selecting a single response category ranged from 77% for/eI/ to only 32% for/æ/. Median ratings of category goodness for modal response categories were somewhat restricted overall, ranging from 5 to 3. Results indicated that temporal assimilation patterns (judged similarity to one-mora versus two-mora Japanese categories) differed as a function of the voicing of the final consonant, especially for the AE vowels, /i, u, I, ε, Λ, υ/. Patterns of spectral assimilation (judged similarity to the five J vowel qualities) of /I, εæ, Λ/ also varied systematically with consonantal context and speakers. On the basis of these results, it was predicted that relative difficulty in the identification and discrimination of AE vowels by Japanese speakers would vary significantly as a function of the contexts in which they were produced and presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1691-1704
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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