A central question in phonetics is whether the integration of information across various acoustic cues is driven primarily by inherent properties of the auditory system, or primarily by linguistic experience with covariance of cues. Obviously, the two theories tend to make similar predictions, because cues with similar auditory effects tend to covary in speech. Here I present experimental data from Korean that tends to support a role for inherent properties of the auditory system instead of or in addition to learned covariance. In particular, I show that multiple acoustic cues involving the presence of low-frequency energy integrate in the perception of Korean coronal fricatives. The finding helps explain a surprising asymmetry between the production and perception of these fricatives found in previous studies: lower F0 onset in the following vowel leads to a response bias for plain [s] over fortis [s*], despite the fact that there is no evidence for a corresponding acoustic asymmetry in the production of [s] and [s*]. A fixed classification task using the Garner paradigm provides evidence that low F0 in a following vowel and the presence of voicing during frication perceptually integrate. This suggests that Korean listeners in previous experiments were responding to an ‘intermediate perceptual property’ of stimuli, despite the fact that the individual acoustic components of that property are not all present in typical Korean fricative productions. This in turn makes it unlikely that Korean listeners have experience with this type of covariance. The finding broadens empirical support for the general idea of auditory-driven integration to a new language, a different manner of consonant, and a situation where covariance of the acoustic cues under investigation is not generally present in a listener’s linguistic input.
Jonah Katz teaches phonetics, phonology, and general linguistics at West Virginia University. He received his PhD in Linguistics from MIT in 2010. Before Morgantown, he spent two years as a CNRS post-doctoral researcher at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and two years as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. His research uses experimental, typological, and theoretical tools to investigate temporal patterns in speech, lenition, perceptibility, and constraints on phonological contrast. He also maintains an active interest in the structural analysis of music and its connection to linguistic structure.