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Perception of illusory clusters: the role of native timing

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Kwon, Harim; Chitoran, Ioana

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S. Karger AG
Phonetica, Vol.81 No.2, pp.153-184
We explore the influence of native timing patterns on nonnative speech perception, by asking whether a nonnative CVCV sequence can be perceived as CCV when the temporal organization of nonnative CVCV is similar to native CCV. To explore this question, Georgian listeners are tested on a CCa-CVCa discrimination in French. Georgian has a rich word-onset cluster inventory, with component consonants loosely timed. The loose timing often, though not always, results in a schwa-like CC transition. French, the stimulus language, exhibits tighter timing in biconsonantal clusters, no vocalic transitions, and a reduced non-prominent first vowel in CVCa sequences. We hypothesize that the cross-language difference in inter-consonantal timing can facilitate the perception of an illusory cluster when Georgian listeners hear French CVCa. The findings reveal such perceptual confusion, particularly in the CCa-CoCa contrast in which the nonnative /& oslash;/ is phonetically similar to the CC transition in Georgian, both in terms of temporal organizations and tongue shape. This confirms the possibility of illusory clusters, which is consistent with the interpretation that Georgian listeners utilize their knowledge of how word-onset CC clusters are temporally implemented in their native language when responding to the task. We propose that the timing pattern may constitute language-specific knowledge and that it can influence the perceptual assimilation patterns in nonnative speech perception.
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  • College of Humanities
  • Department of English Language and Literature
Research Area Linguistics, Phonetics, Phonology, 다중 언어 화자, 실험음운론, 음성의 조음과 인지


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