ASA 125th Meeting Ottawa 1993 May

5pSP4. On the distinctive pitch of vowels: Perceptual prototypes for sinewave analogs?

Philip E. Rubin

Haskins Labs., 270 Crown St., New Haven, CT 06511

Robert E. Remez

Jennifer S. Pardo

Jennifer M. Fellowes

Eva Y. Blumenthal

Danielle A. Warren

Bella Schanzer

Barnard College, 3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

A recent study by Kuhl et al. (1991) found striking perceptual correspondences between vowels and steady tones. Whether subjects experienced spoken vowels, visually presented images of articulating faces producing vowels, or imaginary vowels, they matched the vowel /(open aye)/ with a low-pitch tone, and /i/ with a high-pitch tone. However, tonal analogs of vowels were matched in the opposite manner, with low pitch associated with the vowel /i/ and high with the vowel /(open aye)/. These sine-wave vowels were therefore excluded from hypothesized recognition mechanisms employing distinctive vowel pitches as perceptual prototypes. This finding is counterevidence to claims that tonal analogs of utterances are perceived through ordinary means. The present study employed sinewave realizations of several words differing solely in the nuclear vowel, /(open aye)/ or /i/, in an attempt to replicate and extend this finding. Subjects were asked to match the predominant pitch or vowel quality of these medial sine-wave vowels to the pitch of a single tone. The results will be discussed with respect to claims about the ordinariness of the perception of sinewave replicas and hypothetically prototypic distinctive vowel pitches. [Research supported by NIDCD and NICHD.]