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The consonant length contrast in Persian: Production and perception

  • Benjamin B. Hansen (a1) and Scott Myers (a2)

Across languages, there is a tendency to avoid length contrasts in the most vowel-like consonant classes, such as glides or laryngeals. Such gaps could arise from the difficulty of determining where the boundary between vowel and consonant lies when the transition between them is gradual. This claim is tested in Persian (Farsi), which has length contrasts in all classes of consonants, including glides and laryngeals. Persian geminates were compared to singletons in three different speaking rates and seven different consonant classes. Geminates were found to have longer constriction intervals than singletons, and this length effect interacted with both speaking rate and manner of articulation. In one of two perception experiments, Persian speakers identified consonants as geminate or singleton in stimuli in which the constriction duration was systematically varied. The perceptual boundary between geminates and singletons was most sharply defined for obstruents and least so for laryngeals, as reflected by the breadth of the changeover region in the identification curve. In the other perception experiment, subjects identified the length class of glides differing in constriction duration and formant transition duration. Longer formant transitions led to more geminate responses and to a broader changeover interval.

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