Optical Phonetics and Visual Perception of Lexical and Phrasal Stress in English

R. Scarborough, P. Keating, A. Alwan, S.L. Mattys, T. Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a study of optical cues to the visual perception of stress, three American English talkers spoke words that differed in lexical stress and sentences that differed in phrasal stress, while video and movements of the face were recorded. The production of stressed and unstressed syllables from these utterances was analyzed along many measures of facial movement, which were generally larger and faster in the stressed condition. In a visual perception experiment, 16 perceivers identified the location of stress in forced-choice judgments of video clips of these utterances (without audio). Phrasal stress was better perceived than lexical stress. The relation of the visual intelligibility of the prosody of these utterances to the optical characteristics of their production was analyzed to determine which cues are associated with successful visual perception. While most optical measures were correlated with perception performance, chin measures, especially Chin Opening Displacement, contributed the most to correct perception independently of the other measures. Thus, our results indicate that the information for visual stress perception is mainly associated with mouth opening movements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-175
Number of pages41
JournalLanguage and Speech
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009

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