Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Illusory vowels in perceptual epenthesis: the role of phonological alternations*

  • Karthik Durvasula (a1) and Jimin Kahng (a2)

Listeners often perceive illusory vowels when presented with consonant sequences that violate phonotactic constraints in their language. Previous research suggests that the phenomenon motivates speech-perception models that incorporate surface phonotactic information and the acoustics of the speech tokens. In this article, inspired by Bayesian models of speech perception, we claim that the listener attempts to identify target phonemic representations during perception. This predicts that the phenomenon of perceptual illusions will be modulated not only by surface phonotactics and the acoustics of the speech tokens, but also by the phonological alternations of a language. We present the results of three experiments (an AX task, an ABX task and an identification task) with native Korean listeners, and native English listeners as a control group, showing that Korean listeners perceive different sets of illusory vowels in different phonological contexts, in accordance with the phonological processes of vowel deletion and palatalisation in the language.

Corresponding author
Hide All

This article was made possible by the help and support of many individuals. We would like to thank: first and foremost, the associate editor, three anonymous reviewers and the editors for valuable criticism that helped to improve the article greatly; second, Bill Idsardi, Alan Beretta, Yen-Hwei Lin and the members of the phonology-phonetics group at Michigan State University for many helpful discussions; third, Hongjun Seo and Boram Koo for helping us with experiment design; fourth, Alan Munn, Cristina Schmitt and Suzanne Wagner for help with experimental equipment; and finally, the audiences of NELS 43 and the 22nd Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference for probing questions and helpful discussion.

Hide All
Ahn, Sang-Cheol (1985). The interplay of phonology and morphology in Korean. PhD dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Berent, Iris, Lennertz, Tracy, Jun, Jongho, Moreno, Miguel A. & Smolensky, Paul (2008). Language universals in human brains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105. 53215325.
Berent, Iris, Lennertz, Tracy, Smolensky, Paul & Vaknin-Nusbaum, Vered (2009). Listeners’ knowledge of phonological universals: evidence from nasal clusters. Phonology 26. 75108.
Berent, Iris, Steriade, Donca, Lennertz, Tracy & Vaknin, Vered (2007). What we know about what we have never heard: evidence from perceptual illusions. Cognition 104. 591630.
Best, Catherine T. (1994). The emergence of native-language phonological influences in infants: a perceptual assimilation model. In Goodman, Judith C. & Nusbaum, Howard C. (eds.) The development of speech perception: the transition from speech sounds to spoken words. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 167224.
Bever, Thomas G. & Poeppel, David (2010). Analysis by synthesis: a (re-)emerging program of research for language and vision. Biolinguistics 4. 174200.
Boersma, Paul & Weenink, David (2012). Praat: doing phonetics by computer (version 5.3.20).
Boomershine, Amanda, Hall, Kathleen Currie, Hume, Elizabeth & Johnson, Keith (2008). The impact of allophony versus contrast on speech perception. In Avery, Peter, Dresher, B. Elan & Rice, Keren (eds.) Contrast in phonology: theory, perception, acquisition. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 145171.
Burzio, Luigi (1994). Principles of English stress. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Caporello Bluvas, Emily & Gentner, Timothy Q. (2013). Attention to natural auditory signals. Hearing Research 305. 1018.
Chung, Hyunsong, Kim, Kyongsok & Huckvale, Mark (1999). Consonantal and prosodic influences on Korean vowel duration. In Proceedings of EuroSpeech99. Vol. 2. Budapest, Hungary. 707710.
Davidson, Lisa (2007). The relationship between the perception of non-native phonotactics and loanword adaptation. Phonology 24. 261286.
Davidson, Lisa & Shaw, Jason A. (2012). Sources of illusion in consonant cluster perception. JPh 40. 234248.
Dehaene-Lambertz, Ghislaine, Dupoux, Emmanuel & Gout, Ariel (2000). Electrophysiological correlates of phonological processing: a cross-linguistic study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 12. 635647.
Dupoux, Emmanuel, Kakehi, Kazuhiko, Hirose, Yuki, Pallier, Christophe & Mehler, Jacques (1999). Epenthetic vowels in Japanese: a perceptual illusion? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 25. 15681578.
Dupoux, Emmanuel, Parlato, Erika, Frota, Sónia, Hirose, Yuki & Peperkamp, Sharon (2011). Where do illusory vowels come from? Journal of Memory and Language 64. 199210.
Feldman, Naomi H. & Griffiths, Thomas L. (2007). A rational account of the perceptual magnet effect. In McNamara, Danielle S. & Trafton, J. Gregory (eds.) Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society. Austin: Cognitive Science Society. 257262.
Gerrits, E. & Schouten, M. E. H. (2004). Categorical perception depends on the discrimination task. Perception and Psychophysics 66. 363376.
Hallé, Pierre A., Segui, Juan, Frauenfelder, Uli & Meunier, Christine (1998). Processing of illegal consonant clusters: a case of perceptual assimilation? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 24. 592608.
Han, Mieko S. (1964). Duration of Korean vowels. Los Angeles: Acoustics Phonetics Research Laboratory, University of Southern California.
Hong, Soonhyun (1997). Palatalization and umlaut in Korean. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 4:3. 87132.
Hooper, Joan B. (1976). An introduction to natural generative phonology. New York: Academic Press.
Huang, Tsan (2001). The interplay of perception and phonology in Tone 3 sandhi in Chinese Putonghua. OSU Working Papers in Linguistics 55. 2342.
Hume, Elizabeth & Johnson, Keith (2003). The impact of partial phonological contrast on speech perception. In Solé et al. (2003). 2385–2388.
Iverson, Gregory K. (1993). (Post) lexical rule application. In Hargus, Sharon & Kaisse, Ellen M. (eds.) Studies in lexical phonology. San Diego: Academic Press. 255275.
Iverson, Gregory K. (2004). Deriving the Derived Environment Constraint in non-derivational phonology. Studies in Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology 11. 123.
Jacobs, Haike & Gussenhoven, Carlos (2000). Loan phonology: perception, salience, the lexicon and OT. In Dekkers, Joost, van der Leeuw, Frank & van de Weijer, Jeroen (eds.) Optimality Theory: phonology, syntax, and acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 193210.
Jespersen, Otto (1904). Lehrbuch der Phonetik. Leipzig & Berlin: Teubner.
Johnson, Keith & Babel, Molly (2010). On the perceptual basis of distinctive features: evidence from the perception of fricatives by Dutch and English speakers. JPh 38. 127136.
Kabak, Barış & Idsardi, William J. (2007). Perceptual distortions in the adaptation of English consonant clusters: syllable structure or consonantal contact constraints? Language and Speech 50. 2352.
Kang, Yoonjung (2003). Perceptual similarity in loanword adaptation: English postvocalic word-final stops in Korean. Phonology 20. 219273.
Kim, Kong-On (1974). Temporal structure of Spoken Korean: an acoustic phonetic study. PhD dissertation, University of Southern California.
Kim-Renaud, Young-Key (1987). Fast speech, casual speech and restructuring. Harvard Studies in Korean Linguistics 2. 341359.
Kuhl, Patricia K. (1993). Innate predispositions and the effects of experience in speech perception: the native language magnet theory. In de Boysson-Bardies, Bénédicte, de Schonen, Scania, Jusczyk, Peter W., MacNeilage, Peter & Morton, John (eds.) Developmental neurocognition: speech and face processing in the first year of life. Dordrecht: Kluwer. 259274.
LaCharité, Darlene & Paradis, Carole (2005). Category preservation and proximity versus phonetic approximation in loanword adaptation. LI 36. 223258.
Lahiri, Aditi & Reetz, Henning (2002). Underspecified recognition. In Gussenhoven, Carlos & Warner, Natasha (eds.) Laboratory Phonology 7. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 637675.
Lahiri, Aditi & Reetz, Henning (2010). Distinctive features: phonological underspecification in representation and processing. JPh 38. 4459.
McClelland, James L. & Elman, Jeffrey L. (1986). The TRACE model of speech perception. Cognitive Psychology 18. 186.
Macmillan, Neil A. & Creelman, C. Douglas (2005). Detection theory: a user's guide. 2nd edn. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
Monahan, Philip J., Takahashi, Eri, Nakao, Chizuru & Idsardi, William J. (2009). Not all epenthetic contexts are equal: differential effects in Japanese illusory vowel perception. In Iwasakai, Shoichi, Hoji, Hajime, Clancy, Patricia M. & Sohn, Sung-Ock (eds.) Japanese/Korean linguistics. Vol. 17. Stanford: CSLI. 391405.
Moreton, Elliott (2002). Structural constraints in the perception of English stop-sonorant clusters. Cognition 84. 5571.
Norris, Dennis & McQueen, James M. (2008). Shortlist B: a Bayesian model of continuous speech recognition. Psychological Review 115. 357395.
Paradis, Carole & LaCharité, Darlene (1997). Preservation and minimality in loanword adaptation. JL 33. 379430.
Peperkamp, Sharon (2005). A psycholinguistic theory of loanword adaptations. BLS 30. 341352.
Peperkamp, Sharon & Dupoux, Emmanuel (2003). Reinterpreting loanword adaptations: the role of perception. In Solé et al. (2003). 367–370.
Pisoni, David B. (1973). Auditory and phonetic memory codes in the discrimination of consonants and vowels. Perception and Psychophysics 13. 253260.
Poeppel, David & Monahan, Phillip J. (2011). Feedforward and feedback in speech perception: revisiting analysis by synthesis. Language and Cognitive Processes 26. 935951.
Pollack, Irwin & Norman, Donald A. (1964). A non-parametric analysis of recognition experiments. Psychonomic Science 1. 125126.
Selkirk, Elisabeth (1984). On the major class features and syllable theory. In Aronoff, Mark & Oerhle, Richard T. (eds.) Language sound structure. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 107136.
Sievers, Eduard (1881). Grundzüge der Phonetik, zur Einführung in das Studium der Lautlehre der indogermanischen Sprachen. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel.
Sohn, Ho-Min (1999). The Korean language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Solé, M. J., Recasens, D. & Romero, J. (eds.) (2003). Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Barcelona: Causal Productions.
Sonderegger, Morgan & Yu, Alan C. L. (2010). A rational account of perceptual compensation for coarticulation. In Ohlsson, Stellan & Catrambone, Richard (eds.) Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin: Cognitive Science Society. 375380.
Stanislaw, Harold & Todorov, Natasha (1999). Calculation of signal detection theory measures. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers 31. 137149.
Steriade, Donca (1982). Greek prosodies and the nature of syllabification. PhD dissertation, MIT.
Uffmann, Christian (2006). Epenthetic vowel quality in loanwords: empirical and formal issues. Lingua 116. 10791111.
Wilson, Colin & Davidson, Lisa (in press). Bayesian analysis of non-native cluster production. NELS 40.
Yu, Alan C. L. (2011). On measuring phonetic precursor robustness: a response to Moreton. Phonology 28. 491518.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0952-6757
  • EISSN: 1469-8188
  • URL: /core/journals/phonology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed