This investigation takes as its point of departure observations on the production of French fortis versus lenis plosive consonants. In a series of perception tests the role of different parameters in the fortis versus lenis distinction found in production (e.g. duration of the pre-consonantal vowel, the consonantal closure, voicing during the closure and intensity of the consonantal release noise) was investigated. Apart from durational and intensity parameters, vowel quality differences (depending on the fortis versus lenis character of the following consonant) are also shown to play a part in phoneme identification. Furthermore it is shown that in obstruent clusters like /tp, dp/ versus /tg, dg/ not only do phonetic parameters like those mentioned above influence perception, but that also the phonemic identity of /p/ versus /g/ as fortis versus lenis contributes to the hearers’ decision about the identity of the first consonant in the cluster. Phonetic as well as contextual factors are shown to interact in a complex manner. Implications of the results for speech perception theory are discussed.

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