LING 412 - Speech Perception
Section: 001
Term: WN 2010
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
Requirements & Distribution:
Enforced Prerequisites:
LING 313.
This course counts toward the 60 credits of math/science required for a Bachelor of Science degree.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Under typical conversational conditions, humans are highly accurate at recognizing the sounds of speech and at assigning a linguistic interpretation to sequences of speech sounds. Yet the problems that humans encounter in some listening situations — such as the substantial difficulties that language learners can have (even after years of experience) distinguishing between speech sounds in a non-native language — hint at the complexity of perceptual processing. The complexity is also apparent when we consider the difficulties that speech researchers encounter in programming computers to recognize human speech.

This course investigates how listeners extract a linguistic message from the input acoustic stream. The course begins by considering the nature of the acoustic signal, and how systematic acoustic variation structures the signal that serves as input to the listener. We will then turn to experimental work on speech perception that demonstrates that perceptual processing is not a simple one-to-one mapping between acoustic property and linguistic percept, but rather involves "decoding" the acoustics in ways that depend on phonetic context, speaking rate, the listener's native language, sociolinguistic factors, and much more. We will consider as well two dominant theories of speech perception and the main theoretical issues that have driven speech perception research for over 50 years, including the foundational question of whether speech perception differs from other types of auditory processing.

The course also introduces students to the relation between theory and experimentation, and to experimental design, in this cross-disciplinary field. This goal is addressed in two ways. First, we will read and assess the primary literature for a focus topic: the influence of linguistic experience on speech perception. Through this lens, students will get a detailed picture of how one or two specific theoretical questions are translated into an experimental design, and how those results in turn lead to theoretical revisions and/or engender new questions. Second, the course will take a hands-on approach to the experimental study of speech perception. Students will participate in small-scale versions of two classic perception experiments in order to better understand the phenomena as well as the experimental methods. In addition, class participants will design and execute a small-scale experiment of our own on listeners' perception of non-native speech sounds.

Course requirements include (but are not necessarily limited to) a critique of an experimental study, active and informed participation in weekly discussions, collaborative contributions to the class speech perception experiment (including experimental write-up), and a final paper.

LING 412 - Speech Perception
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
Tu 1:00PM - 4:00PM
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