An acoustic and perceptual investigation of the vowel length contrast in Korean

  • Lee, Goun ;
  • Shin, Dong-Jin
  • Received : 2016.02.02
  • Accepted : 2016.03.19
  • Published : 2016.03.31


The goal of the current study is to investigate how the sound change is reflected in production or in perception, and what the effect of lexical frequency is on the loss of sound contrasts. Specifically, the current study examined whether the vowel length contrasts are retained in Korean speakers' productions, and whether Korean listeners can distinguish vowel length minimal pairs in their perception. Two production experiments and two perception experiments investigated this. For production tests, twelve Korean native speakers in their 20s and 40s completed a read-aloud task as well as a map-task. The results showed that, regardless of their age group, all Korean speakers produced vowel length contrasts with a small but significant differences in the read-aloud test. Interestingly, the difference between long and short vowels has disappeared in the map task, indicating that the speech mode affects producing vowel length contrasts. For perception tests, thirty-three Korean listeners completed a discrimination and a forced-choice identification test. The results showed that Korean listeners still have a perceptual sensitivity to distinguish lexical meaning of the vowel length minimal pair. We also found that the identification accuracy was affected by the word frequency, showing a higher identification accuracy in high- and mid- frequency words than low frequency words. Taken together, the current study demonstrated that the speech mode (read-aloud vs. spontaneous) affects the production of the sound undergoing a language change; and word frequency affects the sound change in speech perception.


sound change;vowel length contrast;production and perception;speech mode;discrimination test;identification test


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