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The Speech Processing Lexicon

Neurocognitive and Behavioural Approaches

Ed. by Lahiri, Aditi / Kotzor, Sandra

Series:Phonology and Phonetics [PP] 22

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Publication Date:
April 2017
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Phonetic categories and phonological features: Evidence from the cognitive neuroscience of language

Blumstein, Sheila E.


Despite the central role that phonetic features and segments play in linguistic theory, there is debate about their status in language processing as well as the nature of their representations. In this chapter, we consider recent research examining evidence from the cognitive neuroscience of language that may not only inform but also help resolve this debate. Specifically, we investigate the neural systems underlying phonetic category and phonetic feature invariance, and the role of segments and features in lexical access. Results from a series of functional neuroimaging studies provide evidence that there is an invariant representation for phonetic categories as well as an invariant representation for more abstract phonetic features. The neural areas activated suggest that the source of phonetic category invariance reflects computations over phonetic category membership, and phonetic feature representations are acoustic in nature but are based on more abstract properties of speech rather than directly sensory processes. Additionally, lexical representations in both auditory word recognition and spoken word production include both segments and the features that underlie them.

Citation Information

Sheila E. Blumstein (2017). Phonetic categories and phonological features: Evidence from the cognitive neuroscience of language. In Aditi Lahiri, Sandra Kotzor (Eds.), The Speech Processing Lexicon: Neurocognitive and Behavioural Approaches (pp. 4–20). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110422658-002

Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110422658

Online ISBN: 9783110422658

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/BostonGet Permission

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