ASA 128th Meeting - Austin, Texas - 1994 Nov 28 .. Dec 02

3aSP2. Effect of voice quality on the tense/lax distinction for English vowels.

Lori L. Holt

Andrew J. Lotto

Keith R. Kluender

Dept. of Psychol., Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706

For a variety of East and West African languages, voice quality covaries with tongue root advancement. In these vowel systems, an advanced tongue root vowel is produced with breathy phonation, whereas, a modal voice quality is used with nonadvanced tongue root. A potential explanation for this regularity, based on the interaction between acoustic effects of vocal-tract shape and of voice quality, was evaluated. Because it has been suggested that the advanced tongue root contrast is similar to the tense/lax contrast in English, male and female series varying perceptually from tense to lax were synthesized for several English vowels. Breathy versions of each series were created by increasing spectral tilt. Results from identification tasks indicated that, in general, breathy phonation led to more high vowels being identified as tense. In addition, the effect of breathiness was greater for vowels modeled after female productions. These results suggest that the covariation in African languages may be consistent with the general principle of auditory enhancement and adaptive dispersion. The findings may also be relevant to gender differences in voice quality. [Work supported by NIDCD Grant No. DC-00719 and NSF Grant No. DBS-9258482.]