Richard P. Fahey
Dept. of Psychol., Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX 78712
Luis E. Lopez-Bascuas
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 8223, Madrid, Spain
Analyzing American English vowels, Syrdal and Gopal [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 79, 1086--1100] found that F[sub 1]-F[sub 0] Bark distance was highly correlated with vowel height. The [(plus or minus)high] distinction could be based on a boundary at 3--3.5 Bark F[sub 1]-F[sub 0] distance. This corresponds to the distance under which the center of gravity effect is thought to occur [Chistovich and Lublinskaya, Hear. Res. 1, 185--195]. Since a feature distinction with an auditory basis is a good candidate for a phonetic universal, one would expect the [(plus or minus)high] boundary to be at 3--3.5 Bark F[sub 1]-F[sub 0] distance in many languages. This is true of the [(plus or minus)high] distinction in American English, for both front vowels [Hoemeke and Diehl, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 93, 2422(A) (1993)] and back vowels [Fahey, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 95, 2978(A) (1994)]. In the current study, native Castilian Spanish speakers identified synthetic vowel height series ranging between /i/ and /e/ or /u/ and /o/. Within each set, F[sub 0] and formant pattern varied orthogonally. Data were analyzed to determine (1) whether F[sub 1]-F[sub 0] distance is a correlate of perceived vowel height, and (2) whether the [(plus or minus)high] boundary is at 3--3.5 Bark F[sub 1]-F[sub 0] distance.