Welcome to the webpage for Advanced Linguistic Phonetics


Instructor: Alicia Beckford Wassink

Location and Time:

Office: Padelford A217

RAI 116

Office Hours: Tuesdays 2-4 and by appointment

Th 2:30-4:50

Office Phone: 616-9589

Dept. Phone: 543-2046 (Dept. of Linguistics Office)


Online Course Materials:

 You may download lab assignments for this quarter by clicking below:

Lab Assignment #1: Cues to Perception in the Acoustic Signal


** Click here to access the EPost site for LING554  **


Course Syllabus:

In this seminar, we will explore issues of phonetic perception via in-depth consideration of one case: the phenomenon referred to in phonetic and phonological theory as incomplete neutralization, and in sociolinguistic theory as near-merger. The topic of incomplete neutralization represents one area of interface between linguistic phonetics and sociolinguistics. A phonological contrast is said to be neutralized when a stable, minimal phonological distinction between sounds is lost. An example of one such neutralization process is "word-final devoicing", which has been cited for voiced and voiceless word-final consonants in Russian, Polish, and German, among other languages. Sociolinguistic and experimental phonetic research has suggested that in many cases, speakers produce contrasting words differently, but without being able to reliably discern the contrast in their own speech or in the speech of others. Thus, for example, in certain posited cases of neutralization, such as in vowels of one variety of American English, it appears that speakers use small, but systematic low-level phonetic differences to retain a contrast. We will explore how contrasts may be maintained using low-level phonetic phenomena. Across the quarter, we will explore the literature on incomplete neutralization/near-merger, and examine acoustic phenomena using data the students produce in a series of laboratory experiments.

Prerequisite: LING 450. Recommended perequisite: LING532.



25%--Presentation: Students will be responsible for leading (in pairs) discussion of one theory of phonetic perception from the syllabus below (mtg. 3). Students must choose their theory in week 2. For the discussion, you may wish to prepare a summary handout of the theory for the class.

20%--Lab Assignment 1: Acoustic cues to voicing, manner and place of articulation.

20%--Lab Assignment 2: Acoustic analysis of a posited neutralization using data from German.

35%--Term project: The final project may be either a term paper or data collection project on a topic related to the neutralization of a phonemic contrast, past or in progress, in a language of the students' choice. (Length: 10-15 pages.) Plans for this project are due mid-quarter, and the write-up in final form is due during the final examination period scheduled for this course: 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2001. No extensions will be granted, so please don't ask!



Required readings:

Supplemental coursepack.


Supplemental reading in acoustic phonetics:

Johnson, Keith (1997) Acoustic and Auditory Phonetics. Oxford: Blackwell.






Come to class prepared to discuss…

The Basics: Audition and Fundamental Questions



Th 1/4

Introductions and background



Th 1/11

Theories of perception


--choose theory for discussion--

Nearey, 1997; (Johnson 3;) get a headstart on readings for next time


Th 1/18

Theories of phonetic perception


Fishbowl Debate

Detailed preparation of one of the following:

Stevens and Blumstein, 1981; Liberman and Mattingly, 1985; Browman and Goldstein, 1990; Fowler and Rosenblum, 1991; Diehl and Kluender, 1989


Cues to Voicing, Place and Manner



Th 1/25

Cues in the acoustic signal

R. Wright

Neutralization Phenomena



Th 2/1

Neutralization rules in phonology


--Lab Assignment 1 Due!--



Th 2/8

Neutralization of consonantal contrasts: word-final devoicing…

Chen, 1970 (Johnson 6.3-6.4)


Th 2/15

…in German

…in Polish

…in Catalan New Zealand English

Dinnsen and Garcia-Zamora, 1971;Slowiaczek and Dinnsen 1985; Dinnsen and Charles-Luce, 1984; Holmes and Bell, 1992


Th 2/22

Neutralization of vowel contrasts: mergers and near-mergers

Port, Mitleb and O'Dell, 1981 (Johnson, 5.3-5.4)


Th 3/1

Evidence of un-mergings


--Lab Assignment 2 Due!--

Labov, Karen, and Miller 1991; Faber and DiPaolo 1995


Th 3/8

Universal phonetics/ discreteness of units

Manaster Ramer, 1996; Port, 1996 (J Phonetics "Letters to the Editor")

Finals Week

Tu 3/13

Final Projects Due!



Coursepack Readings (in order of their use in class):

Nearey, T. M. (1997) Speech perception as pattern recognition, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 101(6), pp. 3241-3252.

Stevens, K. N. and Blumstein, S. E. (1981) The search for invariant acoustic correlates of phonetic features. In Eimas, P. and Miller, J. Perspectives on the study of speech. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 1-38.

Liberman, A. M. and Mattingly, I. G. (1985) The motor theory of speech perception revised, Cognition, 21, pp. 1-36.

Browman, C. and Goldstein, L. (1990) Gestural specification using dynamically-defined articulatory structures, Journal of Phonetics 18(3), pp. 299-320.

Fowler, C. A. and Rosenblum, L. D. (1991) The perception of phonetic gestures, ch. 3. In Mattingly, I. G. and Studdert-Kennedy, M. (eds.). Modularity and the motor theory of speech perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum., pp. 33-59.

Diehl, R. L. and Kluender, K. R. (1989) On the objects of speech perception, Ecological Psychology, 1(2), pp. 121-144.

Wright, R. A. (1998) Perception supplement

Chen, M. (1970) Vowel length variation as a function of the voicing of the consonant environment, Phonetica, 22, pp. 129-159.

Dinnsen, D. A. and Garcia-Zamora, M. (1971) The three degrees of vowel length in German, Papers in Linguistics, 4, pp. 111-126.

Slowiaczek, L. M. and Dinnsen, D. A. (1985) On the neutralizing status of Polish word-final devoicing, Journal of Phonetics, 13(3), pp. 325-341.

Dinnsen, D. A. and Charles-Luce, J. (1984) Phonological neutralization, phonetic implementation and individual differences, Journal of Phonetics, 12(1), pp. 49-60.

Holmes, J. and Bell, A. (1992) On shear markets and sharing sheep: the merger of EAR and AIR diphthongs in New Zealand English, Language Variation and Change 4, pp. 251-273.

Port, R. F. , Mitleb, F. and O'Dell, M. (1981) Neutralization of obstruent voicing in German is incomplete, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 70, S10.

Labov, W., Karen, M., and Miller, C. (1991) Near-mergers and the suspension of phonemic contrast, Language Variation and Change, 3, pp. 33-74.

Faber, A. and DiPaolo, M. (1995) The discriminability of nearly merged sounds, Language Variation and Change, 7, pp. 35-78.

Manaster Ramer, A. (1996) A letter from an incompletely neutral phonologist, Journal of Phonetics, 24(4), pp. 477-489.

Port, R. F. (1996) The discreteness of phonetic elements and formal linguistics: response to A. Manaster Ramer, Journal of Phonetics, 24(4), pp. 491-511.



Additional Readings

Best, C. (1991) The emergence of native-language phonological influences in infants: a perceptual assimilation model, Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech Research, pp. 1-30.

----- (1995) A direct realist view of cross-language speech perception, ch. 6. In W. Strange (ed.) Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Issues in cross-language research. Baltimore: York, pp. 171-204.

Charles-Luce, J. (1985) Word-final devoicing in German: effects of phonetic and sentential contexts, Journal of Phonetics, 13(4), pp. 309-324.

Grieser, D. and Kuhl, P. K. (1989) Categorization of speech by infants: support for speech-sound prototypes, Developmental Psychology, 25(4), pp. 577-588.

Kuhl, P. K. (1981) Discrimination of speech by nonhuman animals: basic auditory sensitivities conducive to the perception of speech-sound categories, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 70, pp 340-349.

----- (1991) Human adults and human infants exhibit a prototype effect for phoneme categories, monkeys do not, Perception and Psychophysics, 50(2), pp. 93-107.

Milroy, J. and Harris, J. (1980) When is a merger not a merger? The MEAT/MATE problem in a present-day English vernacular, English Worldwide, 1, 199-210.

Stevens, K. N. (1989) On the quantal nature of speech, Journal of Phonetics, 17(1), pp. 3-45.

Strange (1989) Evolving theories of vowel perception. JASA 85:2081-2087

Syrdal, and Gopal (1986) A perceptual model of vowel recognition based on the auditory representation of American English vowels. JASA 79:1086-1100

Wright, J. T. (1986) The behavior of nasalized vowels in the perceptual vowel space, Experimental Phonology, pp. 45-61.