Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

Universal Perceptual Attributes for Perceptionof American English Vowels by English and Japanese Native Speakers and Implications for Language Typology

Ashuboda MaraSinghe1, Stephen Lambacher1, William Martens2, Michael Cohen1, Charith Giragama1, Susantha Herath3, Garry Molholt4
1University of Aizu
2McGill University
3St. Cloud State University
4West Chester University

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


A universal perceptual space for 10 American English vowel sounds was derived for two groups of listeners-a group of native speakers of English and a group of native speakers of Japanese. Subsets of these two groups made ratings on 12 bipolar adjective scales for the same set of sounds, each of the two groups using anchoring adjectives taken from their native language. Although there was no evidence of any difference between the two groups in their INDSCALderived perceptual dimensions for these vowel sounds, the adjectives were used differently in describing those same perceptual dimensions by the two groups. Though a few of the adjectives were used to describe similar perceptual variations ,language typological implications of this investigation is that caution be exercised in generalizing semantic differential ratings obtained in one language, especially when those ratings are intended to aid in the interpretation of data from listeners speaking a different native language.

Keywords: universal perceptual space; language typology; semantic differential analysis