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International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 199–213 | Cite as

Vocal-auditory functions in the chimpanzee: Vowel perception

  • Shozo Kojima
  • Shigeru Kiritani
Article

Abstract

The perception of vowels was studied in chimpanzees and humans, using a reaction time task in which reaction times for discrimination of vowels were taken as an index of similarity between vowels. Vowels used were five synthetic and natural Japanese vowels and eight natural French vowels. The chimpanzees required long reaction times for discrimination of synthetic [i] from [u] and [e] from [o], that is, they need long latencies for discrimination between vowels based on differences in frequency of the second formant. A similar tendency was observed for discrimination of natural [i] from [u]. The human subject required long reaction times for discrimination between vowels along the first formant axis. These differences can be explained by differences in auditory sensitivity between the two species and the motor theory of speech perception. A vowel, which is pronounced by different speakers, has different acoustic properties. However, humans can perceive these speech sounds as the same vowel. The phenomenon of perceptual constancy in speech perception was studied in chimpanzees using natural vowels and a synthetic [o]- [a] continuum. The chimpanzees ignored the difference in the sex of the speakers and showed a capacity for vocal tract normalization.

Key words

chimpanzees vowel perception perceptual constancy vocal tract normalization 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shozo Kojima
    • 1
  • Shigeru Kiritani
    • 2
  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityKanrin, Inuyama, AichiJapan
  2. 2.Research Institute of Logopedics and Phoniatrics, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan

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