Modularity in the “Sound” Domain: Implications for the Purview of Universal Grammar

Charles Reiss

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780199247455
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Modularity in the “Sound” Domain: Implications for the Purview of Universal Grammar


This article defines a number of modules composing what are typically referred to as phonetics and phonology. It describes the fact that Universal Grammar actually requires the consideration of the nature of the performance systems. The distinction between transduction and computation is introduced. The chapter then outlines Albert Bregman's auditory scene analysis and provides a suggestion for a ‘grammar’ of auditory perception. Next, an auditory illusion is presented along with an analysis in terms of Bregman's and Nakajima's work. It uses this result to an understanding of speech segmentation. The article then returns to a general discussion of interfaces, including a comparison of ‘substance-free’ phonology and recent approaches to phonetically grounded phonology. The gap-transfer illusion only occurs under certain conditions. The researchers who have tacitly rejected the assumptions of modularity and encapsulation need at least to explain why their non-modular and apparently redundant model is even worthy of serious consideration.

Keywords: Universal Grammar; phonetics; phonology; auditory scene analysis; gap-transfer illusion; Albert Bregman; speech segmentation

Article.  9700 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Phonetics and Phonology

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