Speech Perception

Patrice Speeter Beddor

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Speech Perception

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  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
  • Language Families
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sociolinguistics



Speech perception as an experimental discipline has a roughly sixty-year history. In a very broad sense, much of the research in this field investigates how listeners map the input acoustic signal onto phonological units. Determining the nature of the mapping is an intriguing issue because the acoustic signal is highly variable, yet perception remains remarkably constant (and accurate) across many types of variation. Consequently, an overarching goal that unifies and motivates much of the work is to account for perceptual constancy, that is, to understand the perceptual mechanisms by which listeners arrive at stable percepts despite acoustic variation. Some theoretical approaches to speech perception postulate that invariant properties in the input signal underlie perceptual constancy, thereby defining a research program aimed at identifying the nature of the invariants. Other approaches do not assume invariants but either require principles that account for the necessarily more complex mapping between signal and phonological representation, or require more complex representations. As a result, theoretical approaches differ as well in their assumptions concerning the relevant phonological units (features, gestures, segments, syllables, words) and the structure of these units (e.g., abstract representations, categories consisting of traces of acoustic episodes). Within this overarching agenda, researchers also address many more specific questions. Is speech perception different from other types of auditory processing? How do listeners integrate multiple sources of information into a coherent percept? What initial perceptual capabilities do infants have? How does perception change with linguistic experience? What is the nature of perceptual influences on phonological structures? How do social categories and phonetic categories interact in perception? This bibliography is selective in several respects. “Speech perception” has traditionally referred to perception of phonetic and phonological information, distinct from recognition of spoken words. The division between these two perspectives on the listener’s task has long been a questionable one, and is in many respects an artificial one that does not reflect important current research questions and methods. Although ideally a bibliography would bridge these two approaches, the focus here is almost exclusively on speech perception. Moreover, within this focus, particular emphasis has been given to perceptual issues that are at the interface with other subdisciplines of linguistics—in particular, phonology, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics. Another area, in addition to word recognition, that is underrepresented in this bibliography is perception of prosodic properties, although some of the edited collections cited here include reviews of both of these areas.

Article.  9304 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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