Does top-down information about speaker age guise influence perceptual compensation for coarticulatory /u/-fronting?

AbstractThe current study explores whether the top-down influence of speaker age guise influences patterns of compensation for coarticulation. /u/-fronting variation in California is linked to both phonetic and social factors: /u/ in alveolar contexts is fronter than in bilabial contexts and /u/-fronting is more advanced in younger speakers. We investigate whether the apparent age of the speaker, via a guise depicting a 21-year-old woman or a 55-year-old woman, influences whether listeners compensate for coarticulation on /u/. Listeners performed a paired discrimination task of /u/ with a raised F2 (fronted) in an alveolar consonant context (/sut/), compared to non-fronted /u/ in a non-coronal context. Overall, discrimination was more veridical for the younger guise, than for the older guise, leading to the perception of more inherently fronted variants for the younger talker. Results indicate that apparent talker age may influence perception of /u/-fronting, but not only in coarticulatory contexts.

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