How the Acoustic Correlates of English Obstruents Appear in Multivariate Analysis


It will be argued that multivariate analysis of acoustic natures of speech can provide insight into English phonology. Our recent analyses of spectral changes of speech demonstrated that one extracted factor, the "mid-low factor", with high factor loadings around 1100 Hz, was strongly associated with vowels, and to a lesser degree with sonorant consonants. The "high factor", with high factor loadings above ~3300 Hz, seemed associated with obstruents, and the "low & mid-high factor", with high factor loadings around 300 Hz and 2300 Hz, also showed some association with obstruents. To identify the acoustic correlates of obstruents in more detail, we performed origin-shifted factor analysis, suitable for later re-synthesis, of critical-band-filtered British English speech. We focused on two general categories of English obstruents: fricatives/affricates and plosives. The results showed that five fricatives/affricates (/θ/, /ð/, /f/, /v/, /h/) and all six plosives (/p/, /t/, /k/, /b/, /d/, /g/) occupied the positive direction on both the "high factor" and the "low & mid-high factor", and that six fricatives/affricates (/s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/) occupied the positive direction only on the "high factor". Fricatives/affricates were distributed higher than plosives on the "mid-low factor". If we assume that the "mid-low factor" is correlated with what is called sonority in phonology, our factor analysis agrees with the widely accepted idea that obstruents delimit syllables rather than constitute syllable nuclei. This would correspond to the sonority hierarchy on which obstruents have the lowest position, and plosives are the lowest on obstruents.

Author Information
Yixin Zhang, Kyushu University, Japan
Yoshitaka Nakajima, Sound Corporation, Japan
Kazuo Ueda, Kyushu University, Japan
Gerard B. Remijn, Kyushu University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACL2021
Stream: Language and Technology

This paper is part of the ACL2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

Posted by amp21