• The relation of velopharyngeal coupling area to the identification of stop versus nasal consonants in North American English based on speech generated by acoustically driven vocal tract modulations

      Story, Brad H.; Bunton, Kate; Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona (Acoustical Society of America (ASA), 2021-11)
      The purpose of this study was to determine the threshold of velopharyngeal coupling area at which listeners switch from identifying a consonant as a stop to a nasal in North American English, based on V1CV2 stimuli generated with a speech production model that encodes phonetic segments as relative acoustic targets. Each V1CV2 was synthesized with a set of velopharyngeal coupling functions whose area ranged from 0 to 0.1 cm2. Results show that consonants were identified by listeners as a stop when the coupling area was less than 0.035-0.057 cm2, depending on place of articulation and final vowel. The smallest coupling area (0.035 cm2) at which the stop-to-nasal switch occurred was found for an alveolar consonant in the /aCi/ context, whereas the largest (0.057 cm2) was for a bilabial in /aCa/. For each stimulus, the balance of oral versus nasal acoustic energy was characterized by the peak nasalance during the consonant. Stimuli with peak nasalance below 40% were mostly identified by listeners as stops, whereas those above 40% were identified as nasals. This study was intended to be a precursor to further investigations using the same model but scaled to represent the developing speech production system of male and female talkers.