Edited by Uri Horesh, Jonathan R. Kasstan and Miriam Meyerhoff
[Language Ecology 4:1] 2020
► pp. 115–130
Baba Malay speakers perceive words ending with [al], [aɾ], and [as] as kasar ‘coarse’, and their counterparts ending with [ɛ] as halus ‘refined’. The contrast is neither phonetic, phonological or morphological. Instead, it may be mitigated by sound symbolism operationalized by F2. The frontness of [ɛ] is associated with a smaller articulatory space in the oral cavity, and hence refinedness, as compared to the more backwards coarse forms. This study employs a matched-guise perceptual task. Refined forms are elicited from speakers. The F2 in the relevant endings is adjusted twice upwards and twice downwards in steps of 100Hz. Listeners rate these guises on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being most associated with ‘refined’ values. Results show that the higher F2 is, the more likely listeners are to associate the guise with ‘refined’ values.