Exploring the foundations of vocal imitation: The search for nonspeech temporal influences on speech production
Mantell, James T.
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This research project was designed to investigate the possibility that speech production is sensitive to perceived timing information extracted from nonspeech, pure tone acoustic events. Following a brief review of the sensorimotor nature of speech processes, I highlight the positive evidence for reliable speech production shifts following exposure to model speech. I develop a framework for understanding the potential contributions of nonspeech auditory events in speech production and I outline two possible effects of such stimuli: contrast and assimilation. Next I describe three experiments that collectively obtained 29,700 single word recordings from 218 adult subjects. The 20,883 highest quality word recordings from 159 subjects who spoke English natively were selected for analysis. Experiments 1–2 included conditions to replicate previous vocal imitation findings and also to investigate potential contrastive and assimilative effects with temporally variable fast and slow tone sequence stimuli. Experiment 1 utilized a delayed-exposure paradigm and successfully replicated previous speech imitation findings but failed to identify an effect of nonspeech tone sequences. In Experiment 2, subjects spoke words immediately after exposure to either speech or nonspeech tone stimuli (no-delay task), but neither stimulus type produced imitative, contrastive, or assimilative effects. Finally, Experiment 3 applied tone-onset time stimuli that shared critical temporal features with voice onset time in actual speech, but these stimuli failed to alter subjects' speech patterns. The combined results are compared with previous findings in speech perception and production and are discussed in the context of the cognitive processing underlying vocal action.
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