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Speakers are able to categorize vowels based on tongue somatosensation

Abstract : Auditory speech perception enables listeners to access phonological categories from speech sounds. During speech production and speech motor learning, speakers’ experience matched auditory and somatosensory input. Accordingly, access to phonetic units might also be provided by somatosensory information. The present study assessed whether humans can identify vowels using somatosensory feedback, without auditory feedback. A tongue-positioning task was used in which participants were required to achieve different tongue postures within the /e, ε, a/ articulatory range, in a procedure that was totally nonspeech like, involving distorted visual feedback of tongue shape. Tongue postures were measured using electromagnetic articulography. At the end of each tongue-positioning trial, subjects were required to whisper the corresponding vocal tract configuration with masked auditory feedback and to identify the vowel associated with the reached tongue posture. Masked auditory feedback ensured that vowel categorization was based on somatosensory feedback rather than auditory feedback. A separate group of subjects was required to auditorily classify the whispered sounds. In addition, we modeled the link between vowel categories and tongue postures in normal speech production with a Bayesian classifier based on the tongue postures recorded from the same speakers for several repetitions of the /e, ε, a/ vowels during a separate speech production task. Overall, our results indicate that vowel categorization is possible with somatosensory feedback alone, with an accuracy that is similar to the accuracy of the auditory perception of whispered sounds, and in congruence with normal speech articulation, as accounted for by the Bayesian classifier.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02500498
Contributor : Pascal Perrier <>
Submitted on : Friday, March 6, 2020 - 8:04:11 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 5:24:28 PM

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Jean-François Patri, David Ostry, Julien Diard, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Pamela Trudeau-Fisette, et al.. Speakers are able to categorize vowels based on tongue somatosensation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , National Academy of Sciences, 2020, pp.1911142117. ⟨10.1073/pnas.1911142117⟩. ⟨hal-02500498⟩

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