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LINGUIST List 21.659

Mon Feb 08 2010

Diss: Phonology/Psycholing: Shoemaker: 'Acoustic Cues to Speech...'

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        1.    Ellenor Shoemaker, Acoustic Cues to Speech Segmentation in Spoken French: Native and non-native strategies

Message 1: Acoustic Cues to Speech Segmentation in Spoken French: Native and non-native strategies
Date: 08-Feb-2010
From: Ellenor Shoemaker <ellishoegmail.com>
Subject: Acoustic Cues to Speech Segmentation in Spoken French: Native and non-native strategies
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Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Program: Department of French
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Ellenor Shoemaker

Dissertation Title: Acoustic Cues to Speech Segmentation in Spoken French: Native and non-native strategies

Dissertation URL: http://www.taylorho.com/DISS%20for%20clitic%20climber.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Subject Language(s): French (fra)

Dissertation Director:
David P. Birdsong

Dissertation Abstract:

In spoken French, the phonological processes of liaison and
resyllabification can render word and syllable boundaries ambiguous. In the
case of liaison, for example, the final /n/ of the masculine indefinite
article un [œ̃] is latent in isolation or before word beginning with a
consonant ( [œ̃.sti.lo] 'a pen'); however, when followed by a
vowel-initial word the /n/ surfaces and is resyllabified as the onset of
that word ( [œ̃.na.mi] 'a pen'). Thus, the phrases 'a melody' and 'a nerve' are
produced with identical phonemic content and syllable boundaries [œ̃.nɛʁ]. Some
research has suggested that speakers of French give listeners acoustic cues
to word boundaries by varying the duration of consonants that surface in liaison environments
relative to consonant produced word-initially. Production studies (e.g.
Wauquier-Gravelines 1996; Spinelli et al. 2003) have demonstrated that
liaison consonants (e.g. /n/ in ) are significantly shorter than
the same consonant in initial position (e.g. /n/ in ). Studies on
the perception of spoken French have suggested that listeners exploit these
durational differences in the segmentation of running speech (e.g. Gaskell
et al. 2002; Spinelli et al. 2003), though no study to date has tested this
hypothesis directly.

The current study employs a direct test of the exploitation of duration as
a segmentation cue by manipulating this single acoustic factor while
holding all other factors in the signal constant. Thirty-six native
speakers of French and 36 adult learners of French as a second language
(L2) were tested on both an AX discrimination task and a forced-choice
identification task that employed stimuli in which the durations of pivotal
consonants (e.g. /n/ in [œ̃.nɛʁ]) were instrumentally shortened and
lengthened. The results suggest that duration alone can modulate the
lexical interpretation of ambiguous sequences in spoken French. Shortened
stimuli elicited a significantly larger proportion of vowel-initial
(liaison) responses, while lengthened stimuli elicited a significantly
larger proportion of consonant-initial responses, indicating that both
native and (advanced) non-native speakers are indeed sensitive to this
acoustic cue.

These results add to a growing body of work demonstrating that listeners
use extremely fined-grained acoustic detail to modulate lexical access
(e.g. Salverda et al. 2003; Shatzman & McQueen 2006). Furthermore, while
most spoken word recognition models assume that the phoneme is the smallest
pre-lexical unit, the exploitation of fine-grained acoustic differences
such as duration challenges the view that phonemes are treated as discrete
units in the mental lexicon prior to lexical processing.

In addition, the current results have manifest ramifications for study of
the upper limits of L2 acquisition and the plasticity of the adult
perceptual system in that several advanced learners of French showed
evidence native-like perceptual sensitivity to allophonic variation. Though
there was a great deal of variance observed in both participant groups,
eight out of 36 non-native participants scored at or above the native mean
on the perceptual tasks. These results are particularly interesting in
that they suggest that not only can advanced L2 learners develop
native-like sensitivity to non-contrastive phonological variation in an L2
and but that these learners can exploit this information in L2 online
speech processing.

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