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Re: AP in all of us? New evidence from speech research

Lonce is correct to point out that it is *possible* to understand Chinese
without the pitch information (so my Chinese colleagues asure me).

The point to make here, is that pitch is part of the redundancy in speech -
it gives us some information about the message, but it is not necessary, as
we can usually infer this information (i.e. request, question, emotion ,
etc) from other aspects of the speech and language used (i.e. lots of top
down processing going on).

It is then not surprising that when you reduce the number of cues we use to
understand speech, it becomes more difficult to understand the message.

Most messages work when they are whispered , whether they are in English,
Welsh or Chinese - although more misunderstandings are likely. At the
phonetic and phonological level - we tend to rely on other speech cues
(like length of vowel, or fircation) to indicate things like voicing
contrast which rely on the vocal cords (and give the 'pitch' information).
It is fairly easy to show this in a simple experiment [see
Whiteside, S.P. & Baker, K.L. (1995) The acoustic characteristics of
whispered plosives and their reliability for the perception of `voicing',
Proceedings of the International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences, Vol.2
p.556, Stockholm, 13-19 August. ]

Also, having a brother who is congenitally deaf I can say that deaf people
can learn to control their pitch - but that this is (obviously?) related to
their residual hearing ability.  Through personal experience and
observation I would say that pitch control for the profoundly deaf is quite
often a conscious effort, i.e. it does not become 'automatised' (- so well
learnt that conscious control is unnecessary, like expert reading). My
brother has developed his own use of pitch/intonation based on his own
isolated practice of spoken language, because he has little feedback on his
performance and cannot compare it or model it on other's speech.  I can
understand him, but others will find his speech almost like a foreign
language - even though he is using english/american speech.


Kevin L. Baker
Senior Lecturer in Psychology
Division of Psychology
De Montfort University          Tel - 0116 257 7761
Scraptoft Campus, Leicester                     Fax - 0116 257 7767
http://www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/kevin/ http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~klb/
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