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Computational neuroanatomy of speech production

Abstract

Speech production has been studied predominantly from within two traditions, psycholinguistics and motor control. These traditions have rarely interacted, and the resulting chasm between these approaches seems to reflect a level of analysis difference: whereas motor control is concerned with lower-level articulatory control, psycholinguistics focuses on higher-level linguistic processing. However, closer examination of both approaches reveals a substantial convergence of ideas. The goal of this article is to integrate psycholinguistic and motor control approaches to speech production. The result of this synthesis is a neuroanatomically grounded, hierarchical state feedback control model of speech production.

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Figure 1: State feedback control.
Figure 2: Two-stage psycholinguistic model of speech production.
Figure 3: The state feedback control model.
Figure 4: The hierarchical state feedback control model.
Figure 5: Internal feedback control simulation.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank J. Houde, H. Nusbaum and D. Poeppel for comments on earlier drafts and sections of this paper, and also V. Gracco, who inspired some of the key ideas that are fleshed out here. This work was supported by a grant (DC009659) from the US National Institutes of Health.

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Glossary

Fricatives

Speech sounds produced by forcing air through a small constriction in the vocal tract, creating turbulent air flow. Examples from English include [v], [f] and [s].

Liquids

Speech sounds produced by a constriction of the vocal tract, but not enough to cause the turbulent airflow associated with fricatives. Examples from English include [l] and [r].

Morphemes

Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in a language. They can be 'free' (that is, they can exist as a free-standing unit, as in the word 'cook') or 'bound' (that is, they must be tied to another morpheme, as in 'pre' and 'ed' in the word 'precooked').

Phonemes

Phonemes are the minimal units of speech that distinguish between two words in a language. Thus, the onset sound in 'bit' versus that in 'pit' are different phonemes, as are the final sounds in 'bit' versus 'bid'.

Phonology

Phonology is the study of the representation and organization of phonemes and phoneme patterns in a language.

Phrasal level units

Phrasal level units are hierarchically structured clusters of words. For example, the sentence, 'the cat chased the mouse', can be decomposed into at least three phrasal units — 'the cat', 'chased the mouse' and 'the mouse' — that cluster together in a particular hierarchical arrangement.

Psycholinguistics

Psycholinguistics typically refers to the study of how language information is processed in real time during either comprehension or production. By contrast, linguistics typically refers to the study of the principles or representations that characterize all human languages.

Sibilants

A subtype of fricatives in which airflow is directed towards the sharp edges of the teeth, which are held close together. Examples from English include [s] and [z].

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Hickok, G. Computational neuroanatomy of speech production. Nat Rev Neurosci 13, 135–145 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3158

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