InterSpeech 2021

Relationships between Perceptual Distinctiveness, Articulatory Complexity and Functional Load in Speech Communication
(3 minutes introduction)

Yuqing Zhang (BLCU, China), Zhu Li (BLCU, China), Bin Wu (NAIST, Japan), Yanlu Xie (BLCU, China), Binghuai Lin (Tencent, China), Jinsong Zhang (BLCU, China)
Work on communicative efficiency has hypothesized that phonological contrasts signaling more meaning distinctions (i.e., of high functional load (FL)) tend to have the least articulatory complexity and the highest perceptual salience. However, only a few studies have examined the preference for perceptual distinctiveness based on the traditional measures of FL (e.g., the number of minimal pairs, the change in entropy of the lexicon), which are weak in modeling contexts of individual words. And little attention has been devoted to investigating the need to minimize effort. This study explores whether and how the communicative pressures to minimize the likelihood of confusion and minimize articulatory effort influence phonemic contrasts’ functional contributions to speech communication. We used a revised definition of FL capable of modeling contextual information (i.e., the change in mutual information between phoneme sequences and spoken texts after the contrast in question is neutralized) and quantified information contributions of phonemic contrasts in English. The results indicated that FL of each phoneme pair increased significantly with its perceptual distinctiveness, and decreased significantly with articulatory complexity of the phoneme requiring less articulatory effort in the contrast. Altogether, these findings suggest that communicative pressures modulate the work a phonemic contrast does in distinguishing words.