Few perceptual studies of the temporal aspects of speech have investigated the influence of changes in segmental durations in terms of acceptability. Aiming to contribute tO the assessment of rules for assigning segmental durations in speech synthesis, the current study measured the perceptual acceptability of changes in the segmental duration of vowels as a function of the segment attributes or context, such as base duration, temporal position in a word, vowel quality, and voicing of the following segment. Seven listeners estimated the acceptability of word stimuli in which one of the vowels was subjected to a temporal modification from -50 ms (for shortening) to + 50 ms (for lengthening) in 5-ms steps. The temporal modification was applied to vowel segments in 70 word contexts; their durations ranged from 35-145 ms, the mora position in the word was first or third, the vowel quality was /a/ or /i/, and the following segment was a voiced or an unvoiced consonant. The experimental results showed that the listeners' acceptable range of durational modification was narrower for vowels in the first moraic position in the word than for those in the third moraic position. The acceptable range was also narrower for the vowel /a/ than for the vowel /i/, and similarly narrower for vowels followed by unvoiced consonants than for those followed by voiced consonants. The vowel that fell into the least vulnerable class (the third /i/, followed by a voiced consonant) required 140% of the modification of that which fell into the most vulnerable class (the first /a/, followed by an unvoiced consonant) to yield the same acceptability decrement. In contrast, the effect of the original vowel duration on the acceptability of temporal modifications was not significant despite its wide variation (35-145 ms).
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