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Measuring language-specific phonetic settings

By Ineke Mennen, James M Scobbie, Esther de Leeuw, Sonja Schaeffler and Felix Schaeffler


While it is well known that languages have different phonemes and phonologies, there is growing interest in the idea that languages may also differ in their 'phonetic setting'. The term 'phonetic setting' refers to a tendency to make the vocal apparatus employ a language-specific habitual configuration. For example, languages may differ in their degree of lip-rounding, tension of the lips and tongue, jaw position, phonation types, pitch range and register. Such phonetic specifications may be particularly difficult for second language (L2) learners to acquire, yet be easily perceivable by first language (L1) listeners as inappropriate. Techniques that are able to capture whether and how an L2 learner's pronunciation proficiency in their two languages relates to the respective phonetic settings in each language should prove useful for second language research. This article gives an overview of a selection of techniques that can be used to investigate phonetic settings at the articulatory level, such as flesh-point tracking, ultrasound tongue imaging and electropalatography (EPG), as well as a selection of acoustic measures such as measures of pitch range, long-term average spectra and formants. © The Author(s), 2010

OAI identifier: oai:eresearch.qmu.ac.uk:1483
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