Laszlo Toth & the Robust Voicing Cue (Richard Pastore )

Subject: Laszlo Toth & the Robust Voicing Cue
From:    Richard Pastore  <pastore(at)BINGHAMTON.EDU>
Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 16:18:02 -0500

At 06:29 PM 11/9/98 MET, Laszlo Toth wrote: >Considering human speech understanding, I think that voicedness is a ver= y >robust acoustic cue, and I'm sure that we use it. It's another issue tha= t >we can do without it. The several questions and brief discussion about the "robust voiced-voiceless cue" for speech seems to trivialize a very complex probl= em that many of us have been working on for the decades since Hirsh=92s (JAS= A 1959) seminal study. A few sentences should help illustrate the complexity of voicing contrast. More than a decade ago Lisker noted that approximately 32 different stimulus properties have been demonstrated to = be important for the voicing contrast and each could be considered a cue. F= or a few examples of the large literature on this topic, see studies by Lisk= er et al. (Lang & Speech, 1977), Summerfield (JEP:HPP 1981; JASA 1982, w/ Haggard, JASA 1977), Darwin et al, (Speech Comm 1982; JASA 1983), Stevens= & Klatt (JASA, 1974), and several studies from my lab (e.g., JASA 1982, 1986; P&P 1988). The focus of the current exchange seems to be centered on the possibility that the voicing contrast reflects the ability to identify th= e nature of the early (post release) portion of the stimulus. Over the yea= rs a number of us have made conjectures centered around the notion that one important cue could be the ability to discriminate activation at onset of the higher formants by the voiced versus noise source. In fact, our initial categorical perception study with noise-buzz sequences (Miller et al., JASA 1976) demonstrated the feasibility of such a conjecture. Furthermore, Repp (Lang & Speech 1979) demonstrated that the voicing boundary changes as a function of changes in amplitude of the aspiration noise and Al Bregman is correct that the voicing contrast is found with whispered speech (probably with some alternative form of spectral contras= t and requiring a longer F1cutback). However, there are some languages whe= re there is the voicing contrast, yet aspiration is weak or absent. Thus, although the ability to recognize some aspect of the nature of the onset portion of the stimulus seems to be important (and I have my own conjectures about which ones), it is definitely not simply the ability to discriminate between F0 and noise activation of the higher formants that = is singularly, or necessarily most, important. Given our current knowledge about the complex cues for voicing contrast, it is difficult to imagine a model that accurately reflects hum= an perception of the voicing contrast - especially one that treats the voiced-voiceless distinction as reflecting a single robust cue. However, the beginning of the current exchange on the List did include with a question about one specific cue. That specific question concerns the ro= le of pitch identification in type of onset recognition task possibly represented by voicing contrast. This very complex issue is the focus of= a manuscript which Ed Crawley and I currently have under review. - Dick Pastore Richard E. Pastore Director, Center for Cognitive and Psycholinguistic Sciences Professor of Psychology and Linguistics Binghamton University (SUNY University Center) Binghamton, NY 13902-6000 Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY(at) LISTSERV commands should be sent to listserv(at) Information is available on the WEB at

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Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University