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J Acoust Soc Am. 1993 Jun;93(6):3454-67.

Perceptual separation of simultaneous vowels: within and across-formant grouping by F0.

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Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, United Kingdom.


Six experiments explored why the identification of the two members of a pair of diotic, simultaneous, steady-state vowels improves with a difference in fundamental frequency (delta F0). Experiment 1 confirmed earlier reports that a delta F0 improves identification of 200-ms but not 50-ms duration "double vowels"; identification improves up to 1 semitone delta F0 and then asymptotes. In such stimuli, all the formants of a given vowel are excited by the same F0, providing listeners with a potential grouping cue. Subsequent experiments asked whether the improvement in identification with delta F0 for the longer vowels was due to listeners using the consistent F0 within each vowel of a pair to group formants appropriately. Individual vowels were synthesized with a different F0 in the region of the first formant peak from in the region of the higher formant peaks. Such vowels were then paired so that the first formant of one vowel bore the same F0 as the higher formants of the other vowel. These across-formant inconsistencies in F0 did not substantially reduce the previous improvement in identification rates with increasing delta F0's of up to 4 semitones (experiment 2). The subjects' improvement with increasing delta F0 in the inconsistent condition was not produced by identifying vowels on the basis of information in the first-formant or higher-formant regions alone, since stimuli which contained either of these regions in isolation were difficult for subjects to identify. In addition, the inconsistent condition did produce poorer identification for larger delta F0's (experiment 3). The improvement in identification with delta F0 found for the inconsistent stimuli persisted when the delta F0 between vowel pairs was confined to the first formant region (experiment 4) but not when it was confined to the higher formants (experiment 6). The results replicate at different overall presentation levels (experiment 5). The experiments show that at small delta F0's only the first-formant region contributes to improvements in identification accuracy, whereas with larger delta F0's the higher formant region may also contribute. This difference may be related to other results that demonstrate the superiority of resolved rather than unresolved harmonics in coding pitch.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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