This study was designed to explore the relationship between perception of a high-low vowel contrast and its acoustic correlates in tokens produced by persons with motor speech disorders. An intelligibility test designed by Kent, Weismer, Kent, and Rosenbek (1989a) groups target and error words in minimal-pair contrasts. This format allows for construction of phonetic error profiles based on listener responses, thus allowing for a direct comparison of the acoustic characteristics of vowels perceived as the intended target with those heard as something other than the target. The high-low vowel contrast was found to be a consistent error across clinical groups and therefore was selected for acoustic analysis. The contrast was expected to have well-defined acoustic measures or correlates, derived from the literature, that directly relate to a listeners' responses for that token. These measures include the difference between the second and first formant frequency (F2-F1), the difference between F1 and the fundamental frequency (F0), and vowel duration. Results showed that the acoustic characteristics of tongue-height errors were not clearly differentiated from the acoustic characteristics of targets. Rather, the acoustic characteristics of errors often looked like noisy (nonprototypical) versions of the targets. Results are discussed in terms of the test from which the errors were derived and within the framework of speech perception theory.
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