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Behav Brain Sci. 1998 Apr;21(2):241-59; discussion 260-99.

Linear correlates in the speech signal: the orderly output constraint.

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1
Department of Linguistics and Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Texas at Austn 78712, USA. sussman@mail.utexas.edu

Abstract

Neuroethological investigations of mammalian and avian auditory systems have documented species-specific specializations for processing complex acoustic signals that could, if viewed in abstract terms, have an intriguing and striking relevance for human speech sound categorization and representation. Each species forms biologically relevant categories based on combinatorial analysis of information-bearing parameters within the complex input signal. This target article uses known neural models from the mustached bat and barn owl to develop, by analogy, a conceptualization of human processing of consonant plus vowel sequences that offers a partial solution to the noninvariance dilemma--the nontransparent relationship between the acoustic waveform and the phonetic segment. Critical input sound parameters used to establish species-specific categories in the mustached bat and barn owl exhibit high correlation and linearity due to physical laws. A cue long known to be relevant to the perception of stop place of articulation is the second formant (F2) transition. This article describes an empirical phenomenon--the locus equations--that describes the relationship between the F2 of a vowel and the F2 measured at the onset of a consonant-vowel (CV) transition. These variables, F2 onset and F2 vowel within a given place category, are consistently and robustly linearly correlated across diverse speakers and languages, and even under perturbation conditions as imposed by bite blocks. A functional role for this category-level extreme correlation and linearity (the "orderly output constraint") is hypothesized based on the notion of an evolutionarily conserved auditory-processing strategy. High correlation and linearity between critical parameters in the speech signal that help to cue place of articulation categories might have evolved to satisfy a preadaptation by mammalian auditory systems for representing tightly correlated, linearly related components of acoustic signals.

PMID:
10097014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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