Jeremy Steffman, Wei Zhang; Vowel perception under prominence: Examining the roles of F0, duration, and distributional information. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 October 2023; 154 (4): 2594–2608.


This study investigates how prosodic prominence mediates the perception of American English vowels, testing the effects of F0 and duration. In Experiment 1, the perception of four vowel continua varying in duration and formants (high: /i-ɪ/, /u-ʊ/, non-high: /ɛ-ae/, /ʌ-ɑ/), was examined under changes in F0-based prominence. Experiment 2 tested if cue usage varies as the distributional informativity of duration as a cue to prominence is manipulated. Both experiments show that duration is a consistent vowel-intrinsic cue. F0-based prominence affected perception of vowels via compensation for peripheralization of prominent vowels in the vowel space. Longer duration and F0-based prominence further enhanced the perception of formant cues. The distributional manipulation in Experiment 2 exerted a minimal impact. Findings suggest that vowel perception is mediated by prominence in a height-dependent manner which reflects patterns in the speech production literature. Further, duration simultaneously serves as an intrinsic cue and serves a prominence-related function in enhancing perception of formant cues.