Producing American English vowels during vocal tract growth: a perceptual categorization study of synthesized vowels.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Speech Lang Hear Res, Volume 52, Issue 5, p.1268-85 (2009)


Adolescent, Child, Child, Preschool, Humans, Infant, Jaw, Language Development, Phonetics, Psychoacoustics, Speech, Speech Perception, Tongue, Vocabulary, Vocal Cords, Young Adult


<p><b>PURPOSE: </b>To consider interactions of vocal tract change with growth and perceived output patterns across development, the influence of nonuniform vocal tract growth on the ability to reach acoustic-perceptual targets for English vowels was studied.</p><p><b>METHOD: </b>Thirty-seven American English speakers participated in a perceptual categorization experiment. For the experiment, an articulatory-to-acoustic model was used to synthesize 342 five-formant vowels, covering maximal vowel spaces for speakers at 5 growth stages (from 6 months old to adult).</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>Results indicate that the 3 vowels /i u ae/ can be correctly perceived by adult listeners when produced by speakers with a 6-month-old vocal tract. Articulatory-to-acoustic relationships for these 3 vowels differ across growth stages. For a given perceived vowel category, the infant's tongue position is more fronted than the adult's. Furthermore, nonuniform vocal tract growth influences degree of interarticulator coupling for a given perceived vowel, leading to a reduced correlation between jaw height and tongue body position in infantlike compared with adult vocal tracts.</p><p><b>CONCLUSION: </b>Findings suggest that nonuniform vocal tract growth does not prevent the speaker from producing acoustic-auditory targets related to American English vowels. However, the relationships between articulatory configurations and perceptual targets change from birth to adulthood.</p>

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