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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2004 Oct;47(5):1059-80.

Role of vocal tract morphology in speech development: perceptual targets and sensorimotor maps for synthesized French vowels from birth to adulthood.

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Institut de la communication parlée, Université Stendhal/INPG, Grenoble, France.


The development of speech from infancy to adulthood results from the interaction of neurocognitive factors, by which phonological representations and motor control abilities are gradually acquired, and physical factors, involving the complex changes in the morphology of the articulatory system. In this article, an articulatory-to-acoustic model, integrating nonuniform vocal tract growth, is used to describe the effect of morphology in the acoustic and perceptual domains. While simulating mature control abilities of the articulators (freezing neurocognitive factors), the size and shape of the vocal apparatus are varied, to represent typical values of speakers from birth to adulthood. The results show that anatomy does not prevent even the youngest speaker from producing vowels perceived as the 10 French oral vowels /i y u e phi o epsilon oe [symbol: see text] a/. However, the specific configuration of the vocal tract for the newborn seems to favor the production of those vowels perceived as low and front. An examination of the acoustic effects of articulatory variation for different growth stages led to the proposed variable sensorimotor maps for newbornlike, childlike, and adultlike vocal tracts. These maps could be used by transcribers of infant speech, to complete existing systems and to provide some hints about underlying articulatory gestures recruited during growth to reach perceptual vowel targets in French.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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