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Cross-lingual measurements of interconsonantal differences

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Native speakers recorded pairs of consonant-vowel (CV) and vowel (V) syllables in Japanese, American English, Serbo-Croatian, and Italian. All initial consonants of each language were paired with each other. For example, a speaker would read a-a, a-pa, a-ma, etc., through all of the consonants. The next series would commence pi-i, pi-pi, pi-bi, pi-mi, etc., through the consonants. Five vowels were used. Following typical instructions of the method of magnitude estimation, native panels of 20 to 26 listeners, all university students, individually assessed the sameness or difference of a pair of syllables. The measures were normalized and averaged for each series of pairs of syllables.

Sixteen of the prevocalic sounds, including the absence of a consonant, were deemed phonetically similar from language to language. First, intercorrelations were computed among the languages with respect to the 16 judgments made of the differences between each consonant and the consonants of that language, itself included. Second, a factor analysis was made of each matrix of interconsonantal distances. Third, a cluster analysis was made of the 64 (=16×4) sounds of the four languages.

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Takefuta, Y., Guberina, P., Pizzamiglio, L. et al. Cross-lingual measurements of interconsonantal differences. J Psycholinguist Res 15, 489–507 (1986).

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  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Native Speaker
  • Magnitude Estimation
  • Typical Instruction