Influence of English r-resonances on intelligibility of speech in noise for native English and German listeners

Antje Heinrich, Y Flory, S Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-rhotic British English speakers and Germans living in England were compared in their use of short- and long-domain r-resonances (cues to an upcoming [ɹ]) in read English sentences heard in noise. The sentences comprised 52 pairs differing only in /r/ or /l/ in a minimal-pair target word (mirror, miller). Target words were cross-spliced into a different utterance of the same sentence-base (match) and into a base originally containing the other target word (mismatch), making a four-stimulus set for each sentence-pair. Intelligibility of target and some preceding unspliced words was measured. English listeners were strongly influenced by r-resonances in the sonorant immediately preceding the critical /r/. A median split of the German group showed that those who had lived in southeast England for 3–20 months used the weaker long-domain r-resonances, whereas Germans who had lived in England for 21–105 months ignored all r-resonances, possibly in favour of word frequency. A preliminary study of German speech showed differences in temporal extent and spectral balance (frequency of F3 and higher formants) between English and German r-resonances. The perception and production studies together suggest sophisticated application of exposure-induced changes in acoustic–phonetic and phonological knowledge of L1 to a partially similar sound in L2.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1055
Number of pages18
JournalSpeech Communication
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2010


  • Speech intelligibility
  • L2 acquisition
  • r-resonances


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