Accurate Articulation of /r/: Relationships between Signal Processing Analysis of Speech and Ultrasound Images of the Tongue
Research on /r/ production previously used formant analysis as the primary acoustic analysis, with particular focus on the low third formant in the speech signal. Prior imaging of speech used X-Ray, MRI, and electromagnetic midsagittal articulometer systems. More recently, the signal processing technique of Mel-log spectral plots has been used to study /r/ production in children and female adults. Ultrasound imaging of the tongue also has been used to image the tongue during speech production in both clinical and research settings. The current study attempts to describe /r/ production in three different allophonic contexts; vocalic, prevocalic, and postvocalic positions. Ultrasound analysis, formant analysis, Mel-log spectral plots, and /r/ duration were measured for /r/ production in 29 adult speakers (10 male, 19 female). A possible relationship between these variables was also explored. Results showed that the amount of superior constriction in the postvocalic /r/ allophone was significantly lower than the other /r/ allophones. Formant two was significantly lower and the distance between formant two and three was significantly higher for the prevocalic /r/ allophone. Vocalic /r/ had the longest average duration, while prevocalic /r/ had the shortest duration. Signal processing results revealed candidate Mel-bin values for accurate /r/ production for each allophone of /r/. The results indicate that allophones of /r/ can be distinguished based the different analyses. However, relationships between these analyses are still unclear. Future research is needed in order to gather more data on /r/ acoustics and articulation in order to find possible relationships between the analyses for /r/ production.