LING 103 - First Year Seminar (Social Science)
Section: 001 Perceiving Speech: From Sound to Meaning
Term: FA 2017
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

In our everyday conversational interactions, we take for granted our ability to extract meaning from the speech sounds we hear. We do this quickly, effortlessly, and largely unconsciously for languages we know. (As we listen to an unfamiliar language, we just hear sound.) How do humans accomplish this? Although the relevant perceptual processes are not yet fully understood, these processes must be flexible and dynamic in order to respond to the huge variability in speech sounds introduced by different speakers, different speaking styles, and more. Research shows that, as listeners, we continuously retune, in real time, our perceptual mechanisms to adjust to our interlocutor and to the conversational setting. Indeed, listeners assign different meanings to the exact same acoustic speech signal depending, for example, not only on the actual speaker but on listeners' expectations about that speaker (such as their age, gender, or race).

This course is grounded in foundational questions about how humans perceive speech. Does perceiving speech involve a biological specialization for language or only more general processing mechanisms? What is the time course of the development, across infancy and childhood, of the ability to assign meaning to the continuous speech stream? If perception is malleable, why is it often difficult for adults to learn to differentiate the speech sounds of a new language? How do linguistic, social, visual, and other information interact as we assign meaning to the sounds we hear? We will examine the theories that motivate these and other questions, as well as the experimental studies that test them. Throughout, we will take a hands-on approach, participating in classic and recent experiments as a way of more fully exploring the human capacity for understanding spoken language.

LING 103 - First Year Seminar (Social Science)
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
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