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Epenthetic vowels in Japanese: A perceptual illusion?

By E. Dupoux, K. Kakehi, Y. Hirose, C. Pallier and J. Mehler


In four cross-linguistic experiments comparing French and Japanese hearers, we found that the phonotactic properties of Japanese (very reduced set of syllable types) induce Japanese listeners to perceive ``illusory'' vowels inside consonant clusters in VCCV stimuli. In Experiments 1 and 2, we used a continuum of stimuli ranging from no vowel (e.g. ebzo) to a full vowel between the consonants (e.g. ebuzo). Japanese, but not French participants, reported the presence of a vowel [u] between consonants, even in stimuli with no vowel. A speeded ABX discrimination paradigm was used in Experiments 3 and 4, and revealed that Japanese participants had trouble discriminating between VCCV and VCuCV stimuli. French participants, in contrast had problems discriminating items that differ in vowel length (ebuzo vs. ebuuzo), a distinctive contrast in Japanese but not in French. We conclude that models of speech perception have to be revised to account for phonotactically-based assimilations

Topics: Cognitive Psychology, Psycholinguistics
Year: 1998
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