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PSYC 2650 Chapter Notes -Speech Perception, Phoneme, Vocal Folds

Course Code
PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

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Chapter 10: Language
The Organization of Language
-language involves a special type of translation - converting ideas into sounds, detect-
ing those sounds and converting them into comprehension
-language is highly organized with clear patterns in the way that various ideas are ex-
-language has a structure, at the highest level of the structure are the ideas intended by
the speaker
-these ideas are typically expressed in sentences - coherent sequences of words that
express the intended meaning of a speaker
-sentences are composed of phrased which are composed of words, words are com-
posed of Morphemes, the smallest language units that carry meaning
-there are free morphemes (umpire, talk) and other morphemes that get bound onto
free morphemes (ed, s)
-morphemes turn into Phonemes - the smallest unit of sound that can serve to distin-
guish words in language
-language can also be organized in another way, in each level, people can combine and
recombine the units to produce novel utterances assembling phonemes into brand new
morphemes or assembling words into brand new phrases
-not all combinations are possible
The Production of Speech
-in breathing, air flows quietly out of the lungs, through the larynx, and up through the
nose and mouth

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-noises are produced if this airflow is interrupted or altered and this allows humans to
produce a wide range of different sounds
-within the larynx there are 2 flaps of muscular tissue called the “vocal folds/cords”
-the vocal folds can be rapidly opened and closed, producing a bussing sort of vibration
known as Voicing (e.g. the sound of the letter z is voiced but s is not)
-you can also produce sound by narrowing the air passageway with the mouth itself
(e.g. the sound of the letter s)
-aspects of speech production provide a basis for categorizing speech sounds
-we can distinguish sound according to how the airflow is restricted, this is referred to
as Manner of Production
-next we can distinguish between sounds that are voiced and those that are not, the
sounds of v, z, and n are voiced while f, s, t, and k are unvoiced
-finally, sounds can be categorized according to where airflow is restricted, this is re-
ferred to as Place of Articulation, you close your lips to produce “bilabial” sounds like p
and b, you place your top teeth close to your bottom lip to produce “labiodental” sounds
like f and v and you place your tongue behind your upper teeth to produce “alveolar”
sounds like t and d
-these few features in varying combinations allow us to describe all the sounds our lan-
guage needs
-English has about 40 phonemes
Complexity of Speech Perception
-phonemes that differ only in one production feature sound similar to each other - hard-
er to understand in a noisy environment (confuse p with b)

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-speech perception may seem straightforward but it is very complicated
-one problem is that there are no markers to indicate where one phoneme ends and the
next begins, there are no gaps or boundaries between syllables or words
-the first step prior to phoneme identification is “slicing” the stream into appropriate seg-
ments, referred to as Speech Segmentation
-when hearing a foreign language, we lack the skills needed to segment the stream so
what we hear is a continuous interrupted flow of sound - why they sound so fast
-speech perception is further complicated by a phenomenon know as Coarticulation -
the fact that in producing speech one does not utter one phoneme at a time, they over-
lap, allowing for speech to be faster and more fluent
-the acoustical pattern of each sound is different in different contexts
Aids to Speech Perception
-the speech we encounter, day by day, is surprisingly limited in its range
-most of the words we know are rarely used
-perception of speech shares a crucial attribute with all other types of perception: we
don’t rely only on the stimuli we receive, we supplement this input with a wealth of other
-once we hear the firs phoneme, we activate all the words in our vocabulary that start
with that sound
-speech perception is a process in which we actively seek a match between the sounds
arriving at our ears and the words actually in our vocabulary
-in other cases, we are guided by knowledge of a broader sort, knowledge that relies on
the broader context in which a word appears
-this is evident in the Phonemic Restoration Effect - removing a sounds from a word
and replaced by a brief burst of noise, when participants repeat what they heart they re-
port hearing the right word
-participants don’t just infer what the missing sound was, they literally seem to “hear”
the sound
Categorical Perception
-the effect of context remind us that speech perception takes place within a process in
which one person is trying to convey a set of ideas to someone else and the second
person is trying to discern what those ideas are
-the ideas are not just the start or end point, they actually shape the process
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