Student Author(s)

Danielle Meyer
Alejandra Guzmán

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

Document Type


Event Date



This study explores the impact of language background and experience on listener perceptual accuracy. The languages of interest, Hindi, Spanish, General American English, and German, were selected because they distinctly correspond to the Indo-Iranian, Italic, and Germanic language categories on the Proto-Indo-European family tree, whose branches are determined by shared lingual characteristics. This project included both an acoustic and a perceptual study. For the acoustic analysis, adult speakers of each language were recorded producing vowels in neutral consonantal context. Praat analysis software for speech was utilized to compare vowel target formant frequencies across these languages of interest to measure differences in acoustic space and temporal qualities. Listeners were monolingual General American English speakers and bilingual individuals. These participants listened to the recorded words and were asked to identify the vowel they heard in the target word. Following the categorization of the vowel, the listeners were asked to rate the vowel sound they heard regarding goodness of fit in that category, using a seven-point Likert-type scale. Given the variance in language experience, we expect listeners with a language background (individuals that have studied a foreign language for at least two years, or are bilingual) to have a higher vowel identification accuracy than those who do not. We predict that individuals with a foreign language background will have the highest vowel identification accuracy in the language(s) in which they are most familiar. Concerning unfamiliar languages, individuals with multilingual experience will be more accurate in identifying vowels, due to cross-language facilitation, than individuals with monolingual experience. We hypothesize that of the non-English languages, monolingual English speakers will more accurately identify vowels in Spanish and Hindi, as they are syllable-timed languages in which vowels are less reduced as opposed to English and German, which are stress-timed languages that do experience vowel reduction.