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Reading and the phonetic module. Carol A. Fowler Haskins Laboratories University of Connecticut Yale University. Perception of the speech code, 1967. Speech is coarticulated

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Reading and the phonetic module

Reading and the phonetic module

Carol A. Fowler

Haskins LaboratoriesUniversity of Connecticut

Yale University


Perception of the speech code 1967
Perception of the speech code, 1967

  • Speech is coarticulated

  • The consequence is extreme context-sensitivity of the acoustic signal and the absence of phone-sized segments in the signal

  • Coarticulation is a special behavior--special to discrete actions implemented in overlapping time frames


Perception of the speech code 19671
Perception of the speech code, 1967

  • Perception tracks articulation more transparently than it tracks the acoustic signal

  • Listeners recruit their speech motor systems to recover consonants and vowels from acoustic products of coarticulated speech


The motor theory of speech perception revised 1985
The motor theory of speech perception revised, 1985

  • New to the theory (among other things): speech is produced and perceived by a phonetic module

  • Modules are domain specific

  • Processing is fast, mandatory

  • They are encapuslated

  • They are cognitively impenetrable


What does this have to do with reading
What does this have to do with reading?

  • It helps to explain why learning to read can be difficult

  • It raises the question, though, why reading is even possible


Why learning to read can be hard
Why learning to read can be hard

  • The module derives consonants and vowels

  • It is cognitively impenetrable

  • To appreciate the alphabetic principle, children need phonemic awareness

  • The phonetic module makes achieving awareness difficult


But why is reading even possible
But why is reading even possible

  • It is not just possible, it can get so easy that people read for pleasure!

  • The phonetic module provides the inputs to higher levels of linguistic processing

  • Evolution cannot have prepared it for orthographic inputs


Is reading purely visual
Is reading purely visual?

  • That would mean not taking advantage of the human’s biological adaptation for language

  • It would mean that children could not take advantage of the fact that they already know the language they are learning to read

  • Anyway the data disconfirm that idea


The data
The data

  • Within ms of seeing a printed word, readers of all tested writing systems access the pronounced forms of words


What do the data mean
What do the data mean?

  • Readers do make use of their spoken language capability and knowledge

  • IGM’s special interest in 1990: They are coming up with phonetic module outputs when print cannot be an input to the module. However do they do that?


A conclusion
A conclusion

  • reading is possible, because it is possible for readers to come up with acceptable inputs to their spoken language system outside the module.


But why should that be possible
But why should that be possible?

  • Evolution could not have anticipated the development of writing systems

  • There must be independent reasons for supposing that phonological language forms can be represented “centrally” (extra-modularly, and so not cognitively impenetrably)


Igm s independent reasons
IGM’s independent reasons

  • Rehearsal--cognitive access is essential

  • Dialect information is lost in what is passed on from the module. But we are aware of dialect differences and they guide our social actions and attitudes

  • So the module must provide phonetic representations to central systems


The final move
The final move

  • Rehearsal tells us that language users can allow the output of the phonetic module to be its input

  • So another kind of input that the module can accept is phonetic or phonological


So how does reading work
So how does reading work?

  • In central systems, ultimately highly automatized processes generate phonological forms from print

  • These serve as input to the phonetic module

  • That is where reading first makes contact with our capabilties and knowledge of the spoken language.