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Anglophone perceptions of Arabic syllable structure

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1 Anglophone perceptions of Arabic syllable structure
Azra N. Ali, Michael Ingleby and David Peebles University of Huddersfield England

2 Introduction Existing studies have shown that the syllable has an internal hierarchical structure: syll = (onset) + rhyme rhyme = nucleus + (coda) e.g. “flame” f l + (aI + m)

3 Detecting syllables in the mental models
The syllable structure has been tested empirically using word games with concealed parts. (Mehler et al, 1981) (Ferrand & Segue, 1996; Segui & Ferrand, 2002)

4 Alternative Method We outline here an alternative method for probing syllable structure. We have sought for an empirical probe that engages only one mode of perception: that concerned with audiovisual stimuli probed by response of groups of participants to audiovisually incongruent data (McGurk effect).

5 McGurk Effect most normal adults reported fusion percept /da/ or /Da/
When humans are presented with conflicting (or incongruent) audio and visual stimuli, the speech percept elicited may differ from that in either channel …..because of ‘phonological fusion’. McGurk and MacDonald asked their recording technician to create a videotape with the audio syllable /ba/ dubbed onto a visual /ga/. most normal adults reported fusion percept /da/ or /Da/ symbolically, AUD(ba||ga)VIS → (da)PER|(Da)PER…

6 McGurk fusion rates Fusion rate – measured as the proportion of participants that perceive a fusion.

7 Probing syllable structure using the McGurk effect
McGurk fusion rates have been used successfully to probe syllable structure of English words (Ali, 2003; Ali & Ingleby 2005) Findings showed significant coda / onset differences of fusion rate Codas fuse more readily than onsets AUD(map||mack)VIS → (mat)PER ~75% AUD(bale||gale)VIS → (dale)PER ~45%

8 Coda-Onset Difference
Such differences survive in branching constituents, polysyllabic words and words embedded in natural phrase contexts. (Ali 2003; Ali & Ingleby 2004)

9 CV Languages In a language without codas, however, the quantitative distinction between fusion rates in codas and onsets obviously cannot persist. Although no-coda languages are known, Arabic syllabic structure is contested. In such a contested case. one could use incongruent stimuli to open up the contest to experimental test, seeking to falsify the no-coda hypothesis by finding the segments that show too much fusion to be onsets.

10 Arabic Language (1) The Arabic tradition of Sybawaih, on which the (phonetic) alphabet for Arabic is founded, uses CV units symbolised orthographically by a consonant with a vowel diacritic فَ = /fa/ : فِ = /fi/ فُ = /fu/ In the Western tradition, however, classical scholars, treating Arabic like Latin and Greek, have postulated that there are closed syllables CVC, CVVC, CVCC. Recently, Baothman’s study (2002) of Arabic speech patterns amasses evidence that Arabic has a CV phonology. This suggests that the Western tradition should be questioned.

11 Arabic Syllable Structure (2)
Thus, an preliminary aim of this paper is to question empirically whether native Arabic speakers have codas in their mental representation of Arabic speech. We used word stimuli with an incongruent phonetic segment that would be a coda in the Western tradition but an onset in the Sybawaih view, and other stimuli incongruent at undisputed onset sites Null H0: that fusion rates are the same at onset and ‘coda’ sites. Alternative H1: that fusion rates are not the same for onsets and ‘codas’.

12 Results of Preliminary Aim
Table 1 – fusion rates

13 Arabic Syllable Structure (3)
Primary Aim Having confirmed that fusion rates are the same at onset and ‘coda’ sites for Arabophones. We subjected Anglophones to the same Arabic word stimuli that had confirmed no-coda perceptions amongst Arabophones: Null hypothesis H0: Anglophones fuse Arabic word stimuli at the same rate with incongruity at onset and ‘coda’ sites Alternative H1: Anglophones fuse Arabic word stimuli at significantly different rates at these sites

14 Results of Primary Aim Table 2 – fusion rates

15 Results (2) onsets ‘codas’

16 A more recent study: Geminates in Arabic
Arabophones show bimodally distributed fusion rates between singleton and geminate consonants Significant differences in fusion rates between singletons (fusing readily), and geminates (resistant to fusion). But when the same Arabic stimuli are put to Anglophones, their fusion rates are unimodally distributed fusion rates for singletons and geminates were similar, no significant differences.

17 Summary (1) These new results suggest that Arabophones use mental models of speech that differ markedly from the mental models that mediate speech perception in Anglophones. Further research questions – Subject Arabophones to English stimuli

18 Summary (2) Further research questions –
For an Anglophone learning Arabic, at what point on the learning curve, does a student acquire the no-coda mental model that characterises Arabophones? What are the fusion habits of those bilingually fluent from an early age ?…. Probing syllable structure of Moroccan Arabic.

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