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Re: speech/music

Sue Johnson writes:

>I'm sure you must be able to detect the presence of speech independent of
>being able to recognise it. If someone spoke to me in Finnish say, I would
>be able to tell they were speaking (even in the presence of background
>music/noise), even though I couldn't even segment the words, never mind
>syntactically or semantically parse them.

I could imagine an experimental outcome that would show both Ellis's top-down
and Johnson's bottom-up theories to be correct.  If the sound pressure
level of the speech signal were varied while keeping that of the music
signal constant, then if there were something to the top-down theory,
subjects should be able to detect speech signals at lower dB levels in
their native language than in a language they don't know, even though
the signal would probably be too faint for them to make out what was
being said.  I know this sounds far-fetched, but what if it were true?
Does this sound like a reasonable experiment to try?  Maybe someone's
already done it.

Mark DeWitt
meddling musicologist