4th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Philadelphia, PA, USA
October 3-6, 1996

Temporal Cues for Vowels and Universals of Vowel Inventories

Carrie E. Lang, John J. Ohala

Phonology Laboratory, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Stevens suggested that certain features of consonants are auditorily robust. Such features are abrupt; manifest in 10-30 msec, e.g., [voice], [nasal], [continuant]. Other features such as [palatalized], [pharyngealized] are less robust and are carried on top of (and presumably require more time to be manifested than) the robust features. Robust features are used first-and sometimes exclusively-by languages in constructing a consonant inventory. The less robust features may not be used at all but if they are, the language has already used features from the robust set. We sought to test a similar hypothesis regarding vowels: within the first few tens of msec. only as many vowel contrasts can be differentiated as are attested most commonly in languages of the world - something like (IPA) /i e a o u/. Analysis of the confusion matrices made by listeners identifying end-gated versions of 11 N. Am. English vowels lends support to the hypothesis.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Lang, Carrie E. / Ohala, John J. (1996): "Temporal cues for vowels and universals of vowel inventories", In ICSLP-1996, 434-437.