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

5pSP17. Identification of Hindi dental and retroflex consonants by native English and Japanese speakers.

John S. Pruitt

Dept. of Psychol., Univ. of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620

Previous research has shown that English speakers have great difficulty distinguishing dental and retroflex stop consonants of the Hindi language (which occur in five pairs of stop consonants in Hindi). While both dental and retroflex consonants, in almost all of the manner/voicing contexts of Hindi, occur as allophones in English, they do not occur phonemically. Unlike English, Japanese includes an alveolar-retroflex distinction (the Japanese /d/ versus the flapped /r/). However, no research has determined whether Japanese speakers can distinguish the Hindi contrast. This research compared English and Japanese speakers' ability to distinguish these Hindi stop consonants in four of the five manner/voicing contexts (breathy-voiced, prevoiced, voiceless-aspirated, and voiceless-unaspirated). Subjects were presented consonant-vowel syllables in three vowel contexts (/a/, /e/, /o/) that were produced by two native Hindi speakers. Marked differences were found between these two language groups that were dependent upon the manner/voicing context of the consonants. This research contributes to our understanding of the role of native language experience (phonemic versus phonetic) in the perception of non-native speech contrasts. [Work supported by NIDCD.]