Get access

Pre-attentive perception of vowel phonemes from variable speech stimuli


  • We are grateful to the Empiriepraktikum II 2002, R. Kürschner, P. Bäß, R. Dünnebier, K. Fischer, D. Hamerla, M. Hirsch, A. Hollien, J. Trouvain, B. Möbius, and W. Wokurek for assistance, and to two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier version of the present text. This work was supported by the DFG (T.J., E.S., & K.A.).

Address reprint requests to: Thomas Jacobsen, Institut für Allgemeine Psychologie, Universität Leipzig, Seeburgstraße 14-20, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. E-mail:


Understanding speech requires the construction of phonetic representations while abstracting from specific sound features. To understand different speakers of varying pitches of voice, loudness, or timbre, categorical phoneme information needs to be rapidly extracted from dynamic, changing speech input. The present study demonstrated a genuine MMN to tokens of /a/ and /i/ vowels varying in pitch of voice and amplitude envelope when they occurred infrequently among the respective other vowels. These data indicate that the speech perception system pre-attentively extracted the F1/F2 formant information despite the language-irrelevant variation in the sound input.