The perception of German dorsal fricatives by native speakers of English
Kemp, Renee Lorraine
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German contains two dorsal fricatives, [ç] and [x], which occur in complementary distribution following vowels as part of a process known as dorsal fricative assimilation. This study proposes using speech perception to analyze dorsal fricative assimilation, and determine which dorsal fricative is underlying. A fixed AX listening experiment was conducted with 42 native English speakers as participants using stimuli produced by a native German speaker. Using a statistical analysis, which included participant responses and response times, [ç] was found to be the least perceptually distinct of the four fricatives tested. Additionally, the pair [ç] – [x] was found to be the least perceptually distinct of all six pairs tested. The data indicate that perceptual pressures eliminate an unproductive contrast through dorsal fricative assimilation, and from a perceptual standpoint, [ç] is a weaker candidate than [x] for the underlying dorsal fricative.