The Distinctness of Speakers' /s/—/∫/ Contrast Is Related to Their Auditory Discrimination and Use of an Articulatory Saturation Effect This study examines individual differences in producing the sibilant contrast in American English and the relation of those differences to 2 speaker characteristics: (a) use of a quantal biomechanical effect (called a "saturation effect") in producing the sibilants and (b) performance on a test of sibilant discrimination. Twenty participants produced ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 2004
The Distinctness of Speakers' /s/—/∫/ Contrast Is Related to Their Auditory Discrimination and Use of an Articulatory Saturation Effect
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Joseph S. Perkell
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Boston University
  • Melanie L. Matthies
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Boston University
  • Mark Tiede
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT
  • Harlan Lane
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Northeastern University, Boston
  • Majid Zandipour
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Boston University
  • Nicole Marrone
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Boston University
  • Ellen Stockmann
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • Frank H. Guenther
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Boston University
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: perkell@speech.mit.edu
  • Contact author: Joseph S. Perkell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307.
    Contact author: Joseph S. Perkell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307.×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 2004
The Distinctness of Speakers' /s/—/∫/ Contrast Is Related to Their Auditory Discrimination and Use of an Articulatory Saturation Effect
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2004, Vol. 47, 1259-1269. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/095)
History: Received March 6, 2003 , Accepted May 17, 2004
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2004, Vol. 47, 1259-1269. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/095)
History: Received March 6, 2003; Accepted May 17, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 47

This study examines individual differences in producing the sibilant contrast in American English and the relation of those differences to 2 speaker characteristics: (a) use of a quantal biomechanical effect (called a "saturation effect") in producing the sibilants and (b) performance on a test of sibilant discrimination. Twenty participants produced the sibilants /s/ and /∫/ in normal-, clear-, and fast-speaking conditions. The degree to which the participants used a saturation effect in producing /s/ and /∫/ was assessed with a custom-made sensor that measured contact of the underside of the tongue tip with the lower alveolar ridge; such contact normally occurs during the production of /s/ but not /∫/. The acuteness of the participants' discrimination of the sibilant contrast was measured using the ABX paradigm and synthesized sibilants. Differences among speakers in the degree of acoustic contrast between /s/ and /∫/ that they produced proved related to differences among them in their use of contact contrastively and in their discriminative performance. The most distinct sibilant productions were obtained from participants who used contact in producing /s/ but not /∫/ and who had high discrimination scores. The participants who did not use contact differentially when producing the 2 sibilants and who also discriminated the synthetic sibilants less well produced the least distinct sibilant contrasts. Intermediate degrees of sibilant contrast were found with participants who used contact differentially or discriminated well. These findings are compatible with a model of speech motor planning in which goals for phonemic speech movements are in somatosensory and auditory spaces.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant DC01925. We are grateful to Helen Hanson for her work in the generation of the synthetic speech continua.
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