- The perceptual basis of the feature vowel height
- 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Glasgow
- Book/source title
- Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences
- Glasgow: The University of Glasgow
- Document type
- Conference contribution
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
The present study investigated whether listeners perceptually map phonetic information to
phonological feature categories or to phonemes. The test case is a phonological feature that occurs in
most of the world’s languages, namely vowel height, and its acoustic correlate, the first formant (F1).
We first simulated vowel discrimination in virtual listeners who perceive speech sounds through
phonological features and virtual listeners who perceive through phonemes. The simulations
revealed that feature listeners differed from phoneme listeners in their perceptual discrimination
of F1 along a front-back boundary continuum as compared to a front (or back) continuum.
The competing predictions of phoneme-based versus feature-based vowel discrimination were
explicitly tested in real human listeners. The real listeners’ vowel discrimination did not resemble the
simulated phoneme listeners, and was compatible with that of the simulated feature listeners. The
findings suggest that humans perceive vowel F1 through phonological feature categories like /high/
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