ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

4pSP18. Tests of the perceptual magnet effect for American English /r/ and /l/.

Paul Iverson

Patricia K. Kuhl

Dept. of Speech and Hear. Sci., WJ-10, Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

Experiments by Kuhl and her colleagues have suggested that the perceptual organization of vowel categories is strongly influenced by category goodness. Using a variety of techniques, including signal detection analysis and multidimensional scaling, a perceptual magnet effect for vowels characterized by poor sensitivity and perceptual clustering near the best exemplars of a category and by good discrimination and stretched perceptual distances near the worst exemplars has been demonstrated. The present experiments extend these findings to American English /r/ and /l/. Sixteen variants of /r/ and /l/ were synthesized by independently changing F2 and F3. Adults gave similarity ratings on a seven-point scale for pairs of these tokens. Multidimensional scaling analyses demonstrated that the perceptual space was shrunk in the F2 and F3 dimensions near the best exemplars of /r/ and /l/, and that the perceptual space was stretched in both dimensions near poor exemplars. This suggests that the perceptual magnet effect may characterize the perception of liquid consonants as well as vowels. Additional experiments on the perception of American English /r/ and /l/ by nonnative speakers may also be discussed. [Work supported by NIH.]