ASA 125th Meeting Ottawa 1993 May

5pSP12. An acoustic and perceptual comparison of English and Spanish vowels.

Ann R. Bradlow

Dept. Modern Lang. & Linguist., Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY 14853

This paper addresses three issues. First, the effect of inventory size on the acoustic realization of vowels in English and Spanish is examined. Results indicate that the English vowel space differs from the Spanish vowel space in range, but not in tightness of within-category clustering. The second experiment tests the hypothesis that the perceptual categories coincide with the produced categories within a given language. Indeed, the data suggest that the perceptual and acoustic vowel spaces within English and Spanish correspond closely to each other. Finally, this study explores cross-language differences in vowel perception. These data suggest that there are universal, perhaps psychophysical, boundaries which are independent of inventory size: in both languages, the boundaries between /i/ and /e/, and between /u/ and /o/ are primarily in the F1 dimension, and are in the 400- to 500-mels region. This suggests that the observed regularities in vowel inventories across languages may stem, in part, from universal, auditory-perceptual mechanisms. Results of experiments in which English listeners responded to Spanish-based stimuli, and vice-versa, will also be discussed.