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PSYCH 2H03 (62)
Chapter 10-1

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Judith Shedden

Chapter 10: Language - Virtually every human being uses a language Phonology - Top of hierarchy of language: sentences – coherent sequences of words that express the intended meaning of a speaker o Sentences are comprised of words o Words are comprised of morphemes – smallest language units that carry meaning o Morphemes can be content morpheme (“umpire”) or can be function morphemes (signaling relations among words, like “-ed”) o Morphemes are conveyed by sounds called phonemes (study of sounds = phonology) The Production of Speech - Constriction of passageway impedes or interrupts airflow, allowing humans to produce a wide range of different sounds - Vocal folds (within larynx) can be rapidly opened and closed – producing a buzzing sort of vibration known as voicing ([z] vs [s]) - You can also produce sounds by narrowing the air passageway within the mouth itself - If gap is elsewhere, a different sound results like [sh] - [f] sound: produced by air rushing through between your bottom lip and your top teeth - [m]: moving air through nose rather than the mouth - Linguists distinguish between sounds that are voiced (vocal folds vibrating) and those that aren’t o Voiced: [v] [z] [n] o Voiceless: [f] [s] [t] [k] - Sounds are categorized according to whether the airflow is restricted – place of articulation o [p]/[b] are “bilabial” because you close your mouth - Sounds are also categorized according to how the airflow is restricted – the manner of production o Complete stop of sound [p] or while the passage is restricted, some air continued [f] - Put these three things in combination: makes sound (phonemes) our language needs The Complexity of Speech Perception - Phonemes that differ only in one production feature sound similar to each other o Can be easily confused (e.g. [p]/[b]) in noisy environments - Phonemes that differ in multiple features sound more distinct - Speech perception is complicated: within a stream of speech, there are no markers to indicate where one phoneme ends and when the next begins o No gaps, boundaries between successive syllables or words - First step of phoneme identification is slicing this stream into appropriate segments known as speech segmentation - When we listen to a foreign language – we can’t understand because we lack skill to segment the stream (why foreign language sounds fast) - Complicated by coarticulation – we don’t utter one phoneme at a time but they overlap o Speech perception has to “read past” these context differences in order to identify the phonemes produced Aids to Speech Perception - Speech recognition by computer is relatively primitive - While we know many words, it’s estimated that 50 most commonly used words in English make up more than half of the words we actually hear - Our speech perception benefits from the fact that we generally supplement what we hear with expectations and knowledge, this can guide our interpretations of speech that is difficult to perceive - Exp: tape-recorded a number of naturally occurring conversations; spliced out words and presented these, now in isolation, to their research participants Participants were able to identify only half of these words If restored to their context, all were easy to identify Categorical Perception - Power of our speech recognition abilities is well revealed in the phenomenon of categorical perception We are better at hearing the differences between categories of sounds than we are at hearing the variations within a category of sounds We are sensitive to [t] and [d] but we’re insensitive to differences within each of these categories ([p] sound from another, somewhat different [p] sound) Ex: [p] in PIT has a voice-onset time of 60 ms [b] in BIT has a VOT of 0 ms What about VOT of 30 ms or 45 ms? - No graded-membership pattern; all long VOT are recognized as “pa” and short are recognized as “pa” - Discrimination task: ask whether two stimuli they hear are same or different VOT of 10 ms vs 30 ms : can’t hear the difference Do well in hearing difference between 20 and 40 ms Discriminations a
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