On the perception of “segmental intonation”: F0 context effects on sibilant identification in German

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article


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In normal modally voiced utterances, voiceless fricatives like [s], [ʃ], [f], and [x] vary such that their aperiodic pitch impressions mirror the pitch level of the adjacent F0 contour. For instance, if the F0 contour creates a high or low pitch context, then the aperiodic pitch impression of the fricative in this context will also be high or low. This context-matching effect has been termed “segmental intonation”. While there is accumulating evidence for segmental intonation in speech production, less is known about if and how segmental intonation is actually integrated in the perception of utterance tunes. This question is addressed here in a perception experiment in which listeners identified target words ending in either [ʃ] or [s]. The two sibilants inherently create low or high aperiodic pitch impressions in listeners due to their characteristically different spectral energy distributions. The sibilants were preceded by high or low F0 contexts in the target words. Results show a clear F0-context effect. The context effect triggered more [ʃ] identifications in high-F0 and/or more [s] identifications in low-F0 contexts. The effect was larger for sibilants that were less clearly identifiable as either /ʃ/ or /s/. The effect represents strong supporting evidence that listeners in fact perceive the segmental intonation of fricatives and integrate its aperiodic pitch with the F0-based pitch when perceiving utterance intonation. Thus, the term “segmental intonation” is perceptually appropriate. Furthermore, the results are discussed with respect to reaction-time measurements and an additional effect of the quality of the adjacent vowel phoneme on sibilant identification.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalEURASIP Journal on Audio, Speech, and Music Processing
Issue number19
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2017


  • Speech, Prosody, Intonation, F0, Pitch, Sibilant, Segmental intonation, German, Percepion