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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Neurophonetics

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Abstract Neurophonetics aims at the elucidation of the brain mechanisms underlying speech communication in our species. Clinical observations in patients with speech impairments following cerebral disorders provided the initial vantage point of this research area and indicated distinct functional‐neuroanatomic systems to support human speaking and listening. Subsequent approaches—considering speech production a motor skill—investigated vocal tract movements associated with spoken language by means of kinematic and electromyographic techniques—allowing, among other things, for the evaluation of computational models suggesting elementary phonological gestures or a mental syllabary as basic units of speech motor control. As concerns speech perception, the working characteristics of auditory processing were first investigated based upon psychoacoustic techniques such as dichotic listening and categorical perception designs. More recently, functional hemodynamic neuroimaging and electrophysiological methods opened the door to the delineation of multiple stages of central auditory processing related to signal detection, classification, sensory memory processes, and, finally, lexical access. Beyond the control mechanisms in a stricter sense, both speech articulation and auditory processing represent examples of ‘grounded cognition’. For example, both domains cannot be restricted to text‐to‐speech translation processes, but are intimately interwoven with neuropsychological aspects of speech prosody, including the vocal expression of affects and the actual performance of speech acts, transforming propositional messages to ‘real’ utterances. Furthermore, during language acquisition, the periphery of language—i.e., hearing and speaking behavior—plays a dominant role for the construction of a language‐specific mental lexicon as well as language‐specific action plans for the production of a speech message. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:191–200. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1211 This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain

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