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Chapter 10

Chapter 10 - Speech and Comprehension

Course Code
John Bassili

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PSYA02 Textbook Notes
Chapter 10: Language
Intro- not long ago humans were the only species considered to have languages (*flexible
systems that use symbols to express many meanings)
-most species can communicate with one another, but it doesnt mean they have language
-Inspired by Project Washoe”- many investigators have been able to teach other primates
sign language and that true verbal behaviour is a social behaviour
-language is also used as a tool in remembering and thinking
-linguists have studied the rules of language and have described what we do when we speak
or write
-researchers in psycholinguistics (*a branch of psychology devoted to the study of verbal
behaviour) are more concerned with human cognition ie. How children acquire language,
how verbal behaviour develops and how children learn to speak with their interactions with
Speech and Comprehension
Perception of Speech:
-we say sentences as a string of sounds, stresses and changes in pitch, pauses, maintaining
regular rhythmic pattern of stress- when we listen, we extract the words from a stream of
Recognition of Speech Sounds:
-human vocalizations are clearly distinguished from other sounds
-contain enough info that we can recognize individuals from the sound of their speech and
filter out non-speech sounds (coughs, chuckles)
-auditory system recognizes the patterns underlying speech rather than just the sounds
-fMRI- some regions of the brain responded more when people heard human vocalizations
than natural sounds (located on the temporal lobe in the auditory cortex and shown in both
hemispheres of the brain)- but when it comes to analyzing the detailed info of speech, the
left hemisphere plays a larger role
-analysis of speech begins with its elements, phonemes (*the smallest units of sound that
allow us to distinguish the meaning of a spoken word) i.e. pin has 3 phonemes- /p/ + /i/ +
-40 phonemes, 26 letters in English language
-rate of speech is 180 words per minute, 14 phonemes per second
-one distinction that we can detect is voice-onset time (*the delay between the initial sound
of a consonant and the onset of vibration of the vocal cords)

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-voicing is the vibration of vocal cords and some consonants are unvoiced- the distinction
allows us to tell the difference between sounds such as /p/-unvoiced and /b/-voiced
-regions of the left auditory cortex specialize in recognizing the special aspects of
- bilabial plosives are the phonemes that need closed mouth (/p/ and /b/)
-alveolar fricatives are the phonemes that use open mouth (/s/ and /z/)
-latter regions of the auditory cortex rely on information that transcends the distortions of
individual phonemes- perception of a phoneme is affected by the sounds that follow it
(Ganong, 1980)
-phonemes are combined to form morphemes (*smallest units of sound that denote meaning
in a language) I.e- talked has 2 morphemes; talk and the suffix -ed
-lexical item is a root word in the vocabulary
-most English speaking high school students have a vocabulary of 60,000 words- university
students have well over 120,000 words in their vocabulary
-syntax refers *to the way users of a particular language put words together in a sentence;
each language has rules of grammar. i.e John drives the car orange sounds wrong in
English, but that order of words is correct in French
-the syntax of a particular language determines how phonemes can be combined to form
-free morphemes can stand on their own; bound morphemes cannot stand on their own and
must be attached to other morphemes to provide meaning (ie. Fastest; fast-free
morpheme; /ist/-bound)
Recognition of Words in Continuous Speech: The Importance of Learning and
-Larger units of speech are established by learning and experience
-in addition to units of speech, we learn its content- even though speech is filled with many
hesitations, muffled sounds and sloppy pronunciations, we can recognize sounds because of
-context affects the perception of words through top down processing
-other context also affect word perception cues in the environment help us understand
what someone is saying
Understanding the Meaning of Speech:
-meaning of a sentence is conveyed by chosen words, order that they are combined, affixes
attached to beginning or ends of words, pattern of rhythm and emphasis of speaker, and
knowledge about the word shared by speaker and listener
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