5th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Rhodes, Greece
September 22-25, 1997

Asymmetries in Consonant Confusion

Madelaine Plauche (1), Cristina Delogu (2), John J. Ohala (1)

(1) University of California at Berkeley, U.S.A (2) Fondazione Ugo Bordoni

Both historical sound change and laboratory confusion studies show strong asymmetries of consonant confusions. In particular, /ki/ commonly changes to /ti/, and /pi/ to /ti/, but not the reverse. It is hypothesized that such asymmetries arise when two sounds are acoustically similar except for one or more differentiating cues, which are subject to a highly directional perceptual error. This perceptual entropy can be explained as follows: if sound x possesses a cue that y lacks, listeners are more likely to miss this "all-or-none" cue than to introduce it spuriously. /k/ and /t/ before /i/ have similar formant transitions but differ in their burst spectra. /p/ and /t/ before /i/ also have similar formant transitions but differ in the intensity of their bursts. The importance of these differentiating features for listeners' perception were verified in a confusion study. The implications of the inversely related effects of perceptual and physical entropy for phonetic theory and speech technology is discussed.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Plauche, Madelaine / Delogu, Cristina / Ohala, John J. (1997): "Asymmetries in consonant confusion", In EUROSPEECH-1997, 2187-2190.