Relation of Vocal Tract Shape, Formant Transitions, and Stop Consonant Identification

Story, Brad H.; Bunton, Kate
December 2010
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Dec2010, Vol. 53 Issue 6, p1514
Academic Journal
Purpose: The present study was designed to investigate the relation of formant transitions to place-of-articulation for stop consonants. A speech production model was used to generate simulated utterances containing voiced stop consonants, and a perceptual experiment was performed to test their identification by listeners. Method: Based on a model of the vocal tract shape, a theoretical basis for reducing highly variable formant transitions to more invariant formant deflection patterns as a function of constriction location was proposed. A speech production model was used to simulate vowel—consonant—vowel (VCV) utterances for 3 underlying vowel—vowel contexts and for which the constriction location was incrementally moved from the lips toward the velar part of the vocal tract. These simulated VCVs were presented to listeners who were asked to identify the consonant. Results: Listener responses indicated that phonetic boundaries were well aligned with points along the vocal tract length where there was a shift in the deflection polarity of either the 2nd or 3rd formant. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that regions of the vocal tract exist that, when constricted, shift the formant frequencies in a predictable direction. Based on a perceptual experiment, the boundaries of these acoustically defined regions were shown to coincide with phonetic categories for stop consonants.


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