The phonetic specificity of contrastive hyperarticulation in natural speech

Andrew Wedel, Noah Nelson, Rebecca Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Evidence suggests that speakers hyperarticulate phonetic cues to word identity in a way that increases phonetic distance to similar competitors. However, the degree and type of phonetic similarity between competitors which induces hyperarticulation remains unclear. Here, we compared neighborhood density (as a representative of a phonetically-general type of similarity) to the existence of a phonetic cue-specific lexical minimal pair in terms of their ability to predict hyperarticulation of two different cue-types in a corpus of natural English speech. For all phonetic cues that we investigated – word-initial voiceless stop VOT, word-initial voiced stop VOT, and vowel-vowel Euclidean formant distance – cue-specific minimal pair existence significantly predicted cue hyperarticulation, while neighborhood density did not. Further, the direction of change in a phonetic cue was found not to be consistent within a given cue-type, but instead varied as a function of the phonetic relationship, creating greater phonetic distance to the competitor. For tokens of word-initial voiceless stops, existence of a voiced-stop minimal pair predicted significantly longer VOT, while for word-initial voiced stops, existence of a voiceless-stop minimal pair predicted a shorter VOT. For tokens of vowels, existence of a minimal pair defined by a nearby vowel predicted greater Euclidean distance in formant space from that vowel, rather than greater expansion of the vowel space per se. For example, lax vowels in words with a more peripheral vowel minimal pair competitor (e.g., ship ∼ sheep) were relatively centralized, while tense vowels in words with a more interior vowel minimal pair competitor (e.g., date ∼ debt) were relatively peripheralized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-88
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Hyperarticulation
  • Minimal pair
  • Neighborhood density
  • Speech corpus
  • Voice onset time
  • Vowel dispersion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


Dive into the research topics of 'The phonetic specificity of contrastive hyperarticulation in natural speech'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this