This course introduces students to the basic principles and theories of speech perception. We will take a hands-on approach, conducting small-scale experiments to illustrate classic phenomena and test selected theoretical claims.
In a very broad sense, much of the research in the roughly 60-year history of experimental speech perception investigates how listeners map the input acoustic signal onto phonological units. Determining the nature of the mapping is a complex issue because the acoustic signal is highly variable, yet perception remains nearly constant across many types of variation. Some theoretical approaches to speech perception postulate that invariant properties in the input signal underlie perceptual constancy. 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 in their assumptions concerning the relevant phonological units (features, gestures, segments, words) and the structure of these units (e.g., abstract representations, stored memory traces of auditory experiences). These issues will serve as our overarching framework. However, in addressing them we will also consider: What initial perceptual capabilities do infants have, what is the nature of our perceptual experiences, and how do these determine perceptual learning? How do listeners weight multiple sources of information, and integrate these cues into a coherent linguistic percept? How might cue weighting serve as an impetus for sound change? How do social categories and phonetic categories interact in perception?
Some background in acoustic phonetics is recommended for this course.