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Language-specific knowledge and the perception of tonal contrasts in Italian and English

Mariapaola d'Imperio 1
1 PAROLE - Analysis, perception and recognition of speech
INRIA Lorraine, LORIA - Laboratoire Lorrain de Recherche en Informatique et ses Applications
Abstract : Intonation, including details of tonal alignment [i.e., the synchronization of tones and segments (d'Imperio, 2000)], has been claimed to be part of the phonological knowledge of native speakers. This linguistic knowledge can be assumed to influence the perception of tonal contrasts. Both American English and Neapolitan Italian have two rising pitch accents (L+H* and L*+H) whose alignment is contrastive, although details of their implementation differ. The accents also cue different pragmatic functions (e.g., cuing the question/statement contrast only in Neapolitan) and are subject to different syntagmatic constraints in the two languages. This study tested the hypotheses that the American listeners would be able to perceive the contrast between the two Neapolitan accents, despite the aforementioned differences, and that they would respond similarly to a linguistic (question/statement) and a psychoacoustic (early/late peak) identification task. The stimuli were constructed by manipulating the alignment of a Neapolitan utterance through PSOLA. These stimuli were employed in a linguistic task for both language groups and a psychoacoustic task for the Americans only. Although the Americans could perform the linguistic task, scoring similarly to the Neapolitans, they could not perform the categorization in the psychoacoustic task. The results bear upon the ``universality'' of tonal perception.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - 2:46:15 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 7:46:02 PM

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Mariapaola d'Imperio. Language-specific knowledge and the perception of tonal contrasts in Italian and English. 141st Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Jun 2001, Chicago, Illinois, USA, pp.2475. ⟨inria-00100493⟩

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