ASA 124th Meeting New Orleans 1992 October

2pSP15. Comparison of human and monkey sensitivity to the English liquid /ra--la/ contrast.

Joan M. Sinnott

David M. Barnett

Comparative Hear. Lab., Dept. of Psychol., Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688

This study compared human and monkey sensitivity to the English liquid /ra--la/ contrast using a low-uncertainty repeating-standard discrimination procedure. A synthetic continuum was constructed by varying both a spectral cue in the third formant (F3 onset frequency) and a temporal cue in the first formant (steady-state period before the F1 transition into the vowel). In experiment 1, differential sensitivity was measured using both the /ra/ and /la/ ends of the continuum as standards. Humans were less sensitive than monkeys to variation at the /ra/ end, but equally sensitive at the /la/ end. In experiment 2, subjects were presented with pairwise comparisons from the continuum to discriminate. Human discrimination was best at the identified phoneme boundary near the center of the continuum, while monkey discrimination was best inside the /ra/ category. These results indicate qualitative differences between human and monkey discrimination of this continuum: categorical-like for humans, and noncategorical for monkeys. [Work supported by NIDCD.]