5aSCb53. One small step for (a) man: Function word reduction and acoustic ambiguity

Session: Friday Morning, Jun 07


Author: Laura Dilley
Location: Dept. of Communicative Sci. and Disord., Michigan State Univ., Oyer Center, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824mbaese@msu.edu
Author: Melissa M. Baese-Berk
Location: Dept. of Communicative Sci. and Disord., Michigan State Univ., Oyer Center, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824mbaese@msu.edu
Author: Stephanie Schmidt
Location: Dept. of Communicative Sci. and Disord., Michigan State Univ., Oyer Center, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824mbaese@msu.edu
Author: Jesse Nagel
Location: Dept. of Communicative Sci. and Disord., Michigan State Univ., Oyer Center, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824mbaese@msu.edu
Author: Tuuli Morrill
Location: Dept. of Psych., Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI
Author: Mark Pitt
Location: Dept. of Psych., The Ohio State Univ., Columbus, OH

Abstract:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong insisted for years that his famous quote upon landing on the moon was misheard, and that he had said “one small step for a man.” This controversy has continued, as examinations of the sound files of his transmission have yielded mixed opinions about whether he produced a. The disagreement stems partly from the fact that function words like a can be acoustically fleeting in casual speech, consist of just a few pitch periods, and be spectrally indistinguishable from the preceding context. As a result, they can be perceptually fragile, and easily disappear if the rate of surrounding speech varies [Dilley and Pitt, Psychological Science (2010)]. Here, we examine naturally produced, reduced tokens of for (spoken as “fer”), which were or were not followed by the word a from the Buckeye Speech Corpus, which consists of speakers from Mr. Armstrong’s home state of Ohio. Comparison of the acoustic properties of the two sets of tokens will provide an indication of how similar they can be. Inclusion of Mr. Armstrong’s production will assist in evaluating the likelihood of the function word being spoken. [Work supported by NSF Grant No. BCS-0847653.]