Cues to perception of reduced flaps

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  • Natural, spontaneous speech (and even quite careful speech) often shows extreme reduction of many speech segments, even resulting in apparent deletion of consonants. Where the flap ([ɾ]) allophone of /t/ and /d/ is expected in American English, one frequently sees an approximant-like or even vocalic pattern, rather than a clear flap. Still, the /t/ or /d/ is usually perceived, suggesting the acoustic characteristics of a reduced flap are sufficient for perception of a consonant. This paper identifies several acoustic characteristics of reduced flaps based on previous acoustic research (size of intensity dip, consonant duration, and F4 valley), and presents phonetic identification data for continua that manipulate these acoustic characteristics of reduction. The results indicate that the most obvious types of acoustic variability seen in natural flaps do affect listeners' percept of a consonant, but not sufficiently to completely account for the percept. Listeners are affected by the acoustic characteristics of consonant reduction, but they are also very skilled at evaluating variability along the acoustic dimensions that realize reduction.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International