Third International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP 94)

Yokohama, Japan
September 18-22, 1994

Sound Similarity Judgments and Segment Prominence: A Cross-Linguistic Study

Bruce L. Derwing, Terrance M. Nearey

Department of Linguistics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

This paper presents the results of applying the global sound similarity judgment (SS J) task to the investigation of phonological units in a variety of typologically diverse languages. Prior SSJ studies helped to demonstrate the prominence of the phonemic segment as a basic unit for English, and evidence was also found for the independent status of the rime unit. The segment also predominated when the SSJ task was extended to.Arabic words with a general CVCVC canonical form, but consonants contributed more to similarity scores than vowels and the medial consonant contributed much more than either the initial or final ones. When the SSJ technique was extended to Taiwanese, the segment again emerged as the basic phonological unit, but here the vowel was the most prominent unit overall and the initial C was far more prominent than the final C. In Japanese the mora outranked the segment in prominence, but each of the independent segments also made significant contributions to the SSJ ratings. Finally, in Korean, while the individual segments were again most prominent, a CV or "body" unit also emerged as a significant factor. Thus the segment was important throughout, though the weighting of specific segments and other units varied from language to language.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Derwing, Bruce L. / Nearey, Terrance M. (1994): "Sound similarity judgments and segment prominence: a cross-linguistic study", In ICSLP-1994, 351-354.