Phonotactics and phonetic context in the perception of onset nasality in Taiwanese

Sheng-Fu Wang


This paper reports an experiment on Taiwanese speakers' perception of the distinction between voiced oral and nasal onsets. This distinction is not phonemic in Taiwanese, a language with phonemic nasal vowels: voiced oral onsets only precede oral vowels, and the nasal onsets only precede nasal vowels. The experiment aimed to answer two research questions. First, when the distinction occurs before a nasal vowel, does perception improve when the oral onset is cued by an initial oral portion of the nasal vowel? Second, are all attested contrasts of oral and nasal syllables (e.g., [ba] vs. [mã], [la] vs. [nã]) perceived equally well, or are there effects of places and manners of articulation? The results of an ABX experiment showed that the adding an oral portion to a nasal vowel did not improve Taiwanese speakers’ perception of the unattested distinction of oral voiced and nasal onsets. Within the attested contrasts between oral and nasal syllables, the results showed that contrasts with more salient cues (e.g., aspirated stops vs. nasals) yielded better performances. Overall, this experiment shows that both phonotactics and phonetic cues play a role in the perception of nasality distinction in voiced onsets.


Dispersion Theory; phonotactics; nasality; Taiwanese; ABX

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2018 Sheng-Fu Wang