LINGUIST List 15.1373

Sun May 2 2004

Review: Psycholinguistics: Schiller & Meyer (2003)

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  1. Lourdes Aguilar, Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production

Message 1: Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production

Date: Sat, 1 May 2004 19:40:40 -0400 (EDT)
From: Lourdes Aguilar <>
Subject: Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production

EDITORS: Schiller, Niels O.; Meyer, Antje S.
TITLE: Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production
SUBTITLE: Differences and Similarities
SERIES: Phonology and Phonetics, 6
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2003
Announced at

Lourdes Aguilar, Autonomous University of Barcelona


In the domain of linguistics, the relation between phonetic and
phonological representation has constituted a controversial issue
since the seminal works by Saussure, Baudouin de Courtenay or the
Prague Circle (Anderson, 1985). It is not until recently, that
researchers coming from the phonetics, with data of production,
acoustics or perception studies, have examined the relations between
abstract and concrete realizations of speech; and phonologists have
tested their models by designing experiments (Beckman (ed) 1990, and
the series of Papers in Laboratory Phonology: Kingston & Beckman,
1990; Docherty & Ladd, 1992; Keating, 1994; Connell & Arvaniti, 1995,
Broe & Pierrehumbert, 2000; Local, Ogden & Temple, 2004). In the
domain of psycholinguistics, due to the obvious differences in
processing, much research has concentrated in either speech production
or speech comprehension without considering the other process in
detail. The book under review constitutes an attempt to fill this gap,
paying a special attention to the relation between the processes
involved in speech.


The book opens with a clear introduction written by the editors, Niels
O. Schiller and Antije S. Meyer, which helps us to understand the main
scope of the book: to ask how exactly speech production and
comprehension are similar or different from each other. In the first
chapter (''Neighbors in the lexicon: Friends or foes''), Gary S. Dell
and Jean K. Gordon discuss the effects of the neighborhood density
(the number of words that are phonologically similar to the targeted
word), a property that appears to have opposite effects in speech
production and perception: high neighborhood density has detrimental
effects in comprehension tasks, but facilitatory effects in production
tasks. These findings are explained in terms of the two-step
interactive- activation model of lexical access (Dell et al, 1997),
using a normal version of the model, and versions designed to reflect
aphasic lesions. The authors argue that the interactive property of
the model -that activation feeds back from phonological units to
lexical units during production- allows for a target word's neighbors
to increase the probability with which that word is
selected. Production and comprehension differ in their response to
neighborhood density because production and comprehensions tasks
create different environments. In comprehension tasks, where
phonological neighbors are serious competitors, a densely neighborhood
is a disadvantage to an accurate retrieval. On the contrary, in
production tasks, the set of competitors is defined on semantic
grounds, and as a consequence, neighborhood density facilitates the
retrieval of the target. In summary, whether neighbors are competitive
or cooperative depends on the task: they are costly in recognition but
beneficial in production..

The chapter ''Continuity and gradedness in speech processing'' (James
Mc Queen, Delphine Dahan and Anne Cutler) focuses on the mapping of
the speech signal onto stored lexical knowledge in speech
comprehension, and compares it to the mapping of stored
representations onto articulatory commands in speech production. Their
proposal is that the two processing systems are fine-tuned to the
different task demands of speech decoding and encoding. They argue
that speech decoding is continuous and graded: information flows
through the recognition system in cascade all the way up to the
meaning level, with no discrete processing stages. Furthermore, the
authors review empirical evidence for the assumptions of multiple
activation and relative evaluation of lexical candidates: the multiple
candidate words compete with each other, and their activation is
modulated by the subphonemic detail in the speech signal. The way that
phonetic and phonological information is processed in speech encoding
appears to be very different. Lexical access is a two-stage process,
with, on some accounts (e.g. WEAVER++ production model), strict
seriality, and on other accounts (e.g. DSMSG model), limited cascade
between levels. In no current production models is there massive
parallel activation of word forms. Furthermore, it appears that
subphonemic detail need not be specified; instead, this type of detail
could be filled in by post-lexical rules. As said before, these
differences may be explained by differences in the tasks during speech
production and comprehension: a system continuously processing
phonetic detail is perfect for speech comprehension, but inefficient
for production.

In the next chapter (''The internal structure of words: Consequences
for listening and speaking''), Pienie Zwitserlood discusses the
representation and processing of morphological information. The main
question is if linguistically motivated distinctions of morphological
classes translate to language processing, and where do morphemes play
a role during speaking and listening. She argues in favour of an
independent level of morphological level, distinct from syntactic,
semantic and phonological levels, and shared by speech production and
comprehension processes. There is evidence for that, even if word
forms are different: whereas lemmas are selected in production, word
forms are selected in comprehension, i.e., the word forms of speech
perception are larger than individual morphemes.

The issue examined in the chapter written by Ardi Roelofs (''Modeling
the relation between the production and recognition of spoken word
forms'') is whether a single system participates in phonetic and
phonological processing during both production and recognition; or,
instead, there are separate phonetic and phonological systems for
production and recognition. The question is addressed within the
context of computationally implemented models of spoken word
recognition (TRACE, Shortlist) and production (DSMG, WEAVER++). A
shared system must have bidirectional links between sublexical and
lexical units: this would imply feedback from the sublexical to the
lexical level in production, and from the lexical to the sublexical
level in comprehension. To contrast this condition, Roelofs reviews
findings from a variety of sources (picture naming tasks, chronometric
tasks, neuroimaging studies) and concludes that there is no positive
evidence for feedback. Instead, the available evidence supports the
idea of separate but closely linked feed- forward systems for
comprehension and production.

In the chapter ''Articulatory Phonology: A Phonology for public
language use'', Louis Goldstein and Carol A. Fowler are faced with two
goals: (a) to develop a realistic understanding of language forms as
language users know them, produce them and perceive them, and (b) to
understand how the forms might have emerged in the evolutionary
history of humans, and how they arise developmentally, as child
interacts with speakers in the environment. Their seminal idea is that
language forms are kinds of public action, not exclusively mental
categories. The relation between speech production and speech
perception is discussed from the point of view of Articulatory
Phonology. In Articulatory Phonology, vocal tract activity is analyzed
into constriction actions (gestures) of distinct vocal organs, and
constriction formation is appropriately modeled by dynamical
systems. The authors argue that the phonological knowledge can be
conceived as abstract constraints on gestural coordination, and that
the language forms that languages users know, produce and perceive
must be the same. >From the point of view of Articulatory Phonology,
gestures are the common phonological currency between producers and
listeners: gestures are preserved from language planning, via
production to perception, and directly structure the acoustic signal.
Listeners, therefore, perceive gestures, not acoustic cues. This claim
has not been accepted in the speech research community, but Goldman
and Fowler think that there is enough indirect evidence for it.

The chapter ''Neural control of speech movements'' by Frank
H. Guenther, addresses the representations required for producing the
syllables that make up a spoken utterance (including auditory,
tactile, proprioceptive and muscle command representations) and their
interactions with reference to a model of the neural processes
involved in the production of speech sounds. Guenther proposes a
neural network model of speech motor skill acquisition and speech
production (DIVA). This model provides a unified explanation for a
wide range of data on articulator kinematics and motor skill
development that were previously addressed individually, including
functional brain imaging, psychophysical, physiological, anatomical
and acoustic data. One advantage of the neural network approach is
that it allows analyzing the brain regions involved in speech in terms
of a well-defined theoretical framework. According to the model,
speech perception and production are supported by separate, but
closely linked cortical areas.

Miranda van Turennout, Bernadette Schmitt and Peter Hagoort (''When
words come to mind: Electrophysiological insights on the time course
of speaking and understanding words'') focus on testing one specific
model (WEAVER++) to demonstrate the value of electrophysiological data
for speech comprehension and production research. They describe how
event- related brain potentials (ERPs) can be used to determine: 
(a) the time that is needed for the retrieval of distinct types of
 lexical information, and 
(b) the order in which semantic, syntactic and word form information is 
 retrieved in speaking, listening and reading.
The authors compare the empirical data with the time course estimates
derived from the WEAVER++ model of speech production. The ERP
comprehension data together with the production data provide support
for the tested model. The findings indicate that during speech
production semantic processing precedes syntactic processing and
phonological encoding. Furthermore, the results of ERP studies support
the assumption made by WEAVER++ that word form information is accessed
before syntactic and semantic information, i.e., the ordering of the
retrieval processes is reversed in speech comprehension.

The last two chapters are dedicated to discussing different approaches
to the issue of the acquisition and representation of phonetic and
phonological categories in bilingual speakers. N�ria
Sebastian-Gall�s�nd Judith F. Kroll (''Phonology in bilingual language
processing: Acquisition, perception and production'') examine the
organisation of sound systems in bilingual infants and adults. A
central research issue is to what extent bilinguals possess one or two
phonological systems. The results of the production and perception
studies reviewed by the authors converge closely in showing that
lexical access is nonselective with regard to language. One
interesting aspect of the comparison between perception and production
is the difference related to the part of the lexicon that becomes
activated. In the perception studies, it is the phonology of lexical
form relatives that is engaged: i.e., words that sound like the target
word are activated regardless of the language from which they are
drawn. In the production studies, it is the phonology of the
translation equivalent that is active in addition to phonological
neighbors of the utterance itself.

James E. Flege (''Assessing constraints on second-language segmental
production and perception'') examines theory and evidence related to
the production and perception of phonetic segments by second language
(L2) learners and monolingual native speakers of the same language. He
presents the Speech Learning Model (SLM), developed by him and other
colleagues. This model focuses explicitly on L2 speech acquisition,
and aims to account for changes across the life span in the learning
of segmental production and perception. The SLM proposes that native
vs. non- native differences are more likely to arise as the result of
interference prior phonetic learning than from a loss of neural
plasticity: that is, adults retain the ability to form new phonetic
categories for speech sounds in L2, but phonetic category formation
becomes more difficult with increasing age because the phonetic
systems of the two languages are not fully separate. To support these
hypotheses, Flege provides empirical evidence from production and
perception studies of L2 vowel acquisition.


The book under review is not presented as a unified theory accounting
for speech production and comprehension; instead, contributors tackle
the central problem of the similarities and differences between speech
comprehension and production in different ways, employing contemporary
approaches such the use of neuroimaging studies, electrophysiological
data or computational models. Nevertheless, the book is cohesive due
to the effort made by the authors so as to furnish new data and
explanations concerning the processes involved in speech.

At the end of the reading, we can infer that there is agreement across
authors on at least, one important point: regardless of the different
communicative demands faced by listeners and speakers, nobody assumes
that there are entirely independent representations used exclusively
in production and comprehension. On the contrary, the different task
demands can account for the different patterns found in production and
comprehension research, as proved in the chapters written by Dell and
Gordon and by McQueen, Dahan and Cutler. Though for different reasons,
Zwitserlood and Roelofs argue that there must be separate phonological
and phonetic components for production and comprehension, while the
other levels, are likely to be shared.

The consideration of the units and levels implied in the models is
also well covered. For instance, Guenther proposes a neural network
model which captures the control of processes from the syllabic level
to the level of muscle commands whereas Roelofs' WEAVER++ model
specifies speech-planning process up to the syllabic level.

Interestingly, the outstanding methodological standard of all papers
raises the issue of whether the experimental design is likely to
constrain the nature of the conclusions. Related to this, van
Turennout, Schmitt and Hagoort present very similar experimental
paradigms that can be used to study word production and comprehension,
which is welcomed by all those interested in the investigation of
similarities and differences between speech production and

The book achieves a high-level scientific standard: the individual
chapters are written by authorities in their respective academic
subdisciplines, and topics are examined in depth, relating the
empirical evidence to computational or theoretical
models. Furthermore, the text structure facilitates the assimilation
of the contents: all the chapters begin with a brief summary, and end
with a conclusion in which the main arguments of the chapter are
recapitulated. To complete the data discussed in each chapter, a
complete list of references appears at the end. This relative
independence makes possible a whole reading of the book, or a single
chapter reading.

As said before, a good point of the book is the inclusion of various
approaches, giving a comprehensive overview of the research in the
domain of speech production and comprehension. Nevertheless, this
advantage can be perceived as a caveat by the readers, since the
differences in treatment and the terminology used can make the reading
difficult. For this reason, a glossary with the concepts and terms
used in the book would be helpful.

To end up, the volume under review constitutes an important
contribution to the study of the representation of phonetic and
phonological knowledge in speech comprehension and production, and
their interface. It will be of interest to a wide range of researchers
in phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, cognitive science and the
study of speech lesions. With the tutorial and assistance of the
teacher, it is accessible to undergraduate students, while for
postgraduate students and speech researchers is an excellent state-of-
the-art of the existing works and a text full of suggestions for
additional research.


Anderson, Stephen R. (1985) Phonology in the Twentieth Century.
Theories of Rules and Theories of Representations, The University of
Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

Beckman, Mary E. (ed.) (1990): ''Phonetic representation'', Journal of
Phonetics, 18.

Broe, Michael B. & Janet B. Pierrehumbert (eds) (2000) Papers in
Laboratory Phonology V. Language Acquisition and the Lexicon,
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Connell, Bruce & Amalia Arvaniti (eds) (1995) Papers in Laboratory
Phonology IV. Phonology and Phonetic Evidence, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press.

Dell, Gary S., Myrna F. Schwartz, Nadine Martin, Eleanor M. Saffran
and Debra A. Gagnon (1997) ''Lexical access in aphasic and nonaphasic
speakers'', Psychological Review 93: 283-321.

Docherty, Gerard J. & D. Robert Ladd (eds) (1992) Papers in Laboratory
Phonology II. Gesture, Segment, Prosody, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press.

Keating, P. A. (ed.) (1994) Papers in Laboratory Phonology III.
Phonological Structure and Phonetic Form, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press.

Kingston, John & Mary E. Beckman (eds) (1990) Papers in Laboratory
Phonology I. Between the Grammar and Physics of Speech, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press.

Local, John, Richard Ogden & Rosalind Temple (2004) Papers in
Laboratory Phonology VI. Phonetic interpretation, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press.


Lourdes Aguilar is a lecturer of Spanish language and linguistics in
the Department of Hispanic Philology at the Autonomous University of
Barcelona. Her research interests include phonetics and phonology and
their interface, discourse structure, and speech and language
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