Listener perceptions and acoustic characteristics of children's rhotic vowels

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  • Many children have difficulty producing /r/ sounds. In this study we are interested in children’s production of vocalic forms of /r/, otherwise known as rhotic vowels. Rhotic vowels can be monophthongs (/ɝ/and/ɚ/), as in words like stir and tiger, or diphthongs (e.g., /ɑ͡ɚ/ or /ɪ͡ɚ/), as in car and ear. The current study investigates the relationship between inexperienced listeners’ perceptions of children’s rhotic vowel productions and the acoustic correlates of these productions. Stimuli consisted of 198 vowels extracted from elicited single words produced by children aged three to five. The tokens included productions that were phonetically transcribed as fully rhotic (correct), partially or fully derhoticized (incorrect), or non-rhotic (control), by a trained listener. The tokens transcribed as partially or fully derhoticized were further categorized based on the type of substitution error made by the speaker. Twenty inexperienced listeners with no experience in phonetic transcription or acoustic analysis were asked to judge rhoticity of token sounds by clicking on one of four choices: definitely r, somewhat r-like, not very r-like, definitely not r. Acoustic properties of these rhotic vowels (F3-F2 and duration) were measured and compared to the phonetic transcriptions and inexperienced listener ratings to determine whether listeners perceive a difference between control vowels, correct, and incorrect productions of rhotic vowels and if this difference is related to acoustic correlates.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International