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Perceptual distinctiveness between dental and palatal sibilants in different vowel contexts and its implications for phonological contrasts

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      Abstract

      Mandarin Chinese has dental, palatal, and retroflex sibilants, but their contrasts before [_i] are avoided: The palatals appear before [i] while the dentals and retroflexes appear before homorganic syllabic approximants (a.k.a. apical vowels). An enhancement view regards the apical vowels as a way to avoid the weak contrast /si-ɕi-ȿi/. We focus on the dental vs. palatal contrast in this study and test the enhancement-based hypothesis that the dental and palatal sibilants are perceptually less distinct in the [_i] context than in other vowel contexts. This hypothesis is supported by a typological survey of 155 Chinese dialects, which showed that contrastive [si, tsi, tsʰi] and [ɕi, tɕi, tɕʰi] tend to be avoided even when there are no retroflexes in the sound system. We also conducted a speeded-AX discrimination experiment with 20 English listeners and 10 Chinese listeners to examine the effect of vowels ([_i], [_a], [_ou]) on the perceived distinctiveness of sibilant contrasts ([s-ɕ], [ts-tɕ], [tsʰ-tɕʰ]). The results showed that the [_i] context introduced a longer response time, thus reduced distinctiveness, than other vowels, confirming our hypothesis. Moreover, the general lack of difference between the two groups of listeners indicates that the vowel effect is language-independent.

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        Linguistic experience alters phonetic perception in infants by 6 months of age.

        Linguistic experience affects phonetic perception. However, the critical period during which experience affects perception and the mechanism responsible for these effects are unknown. This study of 6-month-old infants from two countries, the United States and Sweden, shows that exposure to a specific language in the first half year of life alters infants' phonetic perception.
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          Pitch-synchronous waveform processing techniques for text-to-speech synthesis using diphones

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas, 1541 Lilac Lane, Lawrence, US
            Contributors
            ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3441-5004
            Journal
            1868-6354
            Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology
            Ubiquity Press
            1868-6354
            18 July 2017
            : 8
            : 1
            10.5334/labphon.27
            Copyright: © 2017 The Author(s)

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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