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Review of  The Handbook of Speech Perception, 2nd Edition

Reviewer: Sviatlana Karpava
Book Title: The Handbook of Speech Perception, 2nd Edition
Book Author: Jennifer S. Pardo Lynne C. Nygaard Robert E. Remez David B. Pisoni
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Cognitive Science
Issue Number: 32.3611

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The Handbook of Speech Perception, edited by Jennifer S. Pardo, Lynne C. Nygaard, Robert E. Remez, and David B. Pisoni, provides an overview of the current international research in the area of speech perception. The book is a collection of 25 chapters that are organized into 5 parts: Part I, Sensing Speech, Part II, Perception of Linguistic Properties, Part III, Perception of Indexical Properties, Part IV, Speech Perception by Special Listeners, and Part V, Theoretical Perspective on Speech Perception.

Part I: Sensing Speech is composed of four chapters. Chapter 1, ‘Perceptual Organization of Speech’ by R.E. Remez, is an attempt to answer the question: How does a perceiver resolve the linguistic properties of an utterance? The author supports the idea of the modularity of the speech perception models (Fodor, 1983). Researchers working on the perceptual organization of speech should pay attention not only to the principles of auditory perceptual organization, but also to perceptual organization and the gestalt legacy, a generic auditory model of organization, and the nature of speech cues (Bregman et al., 1990). The constraint on normative descriptions of both speech perception and multisensory perceptual organization are discussed.

Chapter 2, ‘Primacy of Multimodal Speech Perception for the Brain and Science’ by Lawrence D. Rosenblum and Josh Dorsi address the issue of multimodal speech perception and the “multisensory revolution” (e.g., Rosenblum, 2013), which presupposes neurophysiological and behavioural flexibility with perceptual modality and cross-modal modulation of primary and secondary sensory cortexes in humans (Rosenblum, Dias, & Dorsi, 2016). It describes the ubiquity and automaticity of multisensory speech in human behaviour, the stage of the speech streams integration and supramodality of speech perception.

Chapter 3, ‘How Does the Brain Represent Speech?’ by Oiwi Parker Jones and Jan W. H. Schnupp delves into the interface between the brain’s auditory system and speech representation. It is important to understand how the brain represents the both the acoustics and the phonetic, prosodic, and semantic features of the speech. The chapter will present the complexity of anatomy regarding which physiological mechanisms and structures are responsible for our ability to hear. Recent research implementing functional brain imaging and invasive electrophysiological recordings provide a deeper insight into speech representations, especially considering higher‐order cortical structures.

In Chapter 4, ‘Perceptual Control of Speech’ by K. G. Munhall, Anja‐Xiaoxing Cui, Ellen O’Donoghue, Steven Lamontagne and David Lutes the authors investigate the perceptual control of speech production, the link between the speech motor system, auditory system and sensory feedback, the processing of sensory input, hearing others and hearing your own voice, error detection and correction (Bridgeman, 2007; Meyer, Huettig, & Levelt, 2016). They provide examples of the study of natural and experimental deafening in humans and birds and the real‐time manipulations of auditory feedback through rapid signal processing as well as the neural processing of self‐produced sound, vocal learning, birdsong, and the interrelationship between speech perception and speech production.

Part II: Perception of Linguistic Properties includes eight chapters. Chapter 5, ‘Features in Speech Perception and Lexical Access’ by Sheila E. Blumstein examines the processes and mechanisms used in speech perception and word recognition. A debate exists regarding the nature of the representations that are used in perceiving speech and in lexical access as there are individual differences regarding speech signals, vocal tract sizes, speech production and perception due to contextual factors. The researchers use behavioural, psychoacoustic, and neural evidence to prove that the features of phonetic segments, which are represented in terms of invariant (stable) acoustic properties with graded mapping from sounds to words, are important for speech perception and lexical access.

Chapter 6, ‘Speaker Normalization in Speech Perception’ by Keith Johnson and Matthias J. Sjerps deals with the cognitive representation of social phonetic variation (Thomas, 2011) and the listener’s ability to “normalize” for talker differences in speech perception (Johnson, 1997). Talkers differ in many ways, for example, in the choice of linguistic variants for particular words. Listeners can differentiate between social or personal word pronunciation based on their experience and associations with particular variants of words and pragmatic contexts, a multiple listing of variants, a top‐down parsing process and perceptual learning. The authors provide examples from behavioural and neuroimaging studies that provide evidence suggesting the existence of expectation‐guided coherence‐lending mechanisms in speech perception.

In Chapter 7, ‘Clear Speech Perception: Linguistic and Cognitive Benefits’ Rajka Smiljanic looks into clear speech perception and in which way acoustic‐articulatory features contribute to intelligibility improvement regarding cognitive‐perceptual processes and individual listener characteristics. Talkers adapt their speech depending on the communicative context (e.g., communication involving a foreigner, an infant, interlocutors with perceptual difficulties, low proficiency and/or a noisy environment), and use a clear speaking style (Cristia, 2013; Johnson et al., 2013). The researcher writes about the characteristics and effectiveness of clear speech in enhanced speech intelligibility and provides two reviews regarding the effect of the instruction and communication environment on speech intelligibility (Pichora‐Fuller et al., 2010) and algorithmic and human context‐induced speech modifications and their effect on speech processing (Cooke et al., 2013a).

Chapter 8, ‘A Comprehensive Approach to Specificity Effects in Spoken‐Word Recognition’ by Conor T. Mclennan and Sara Incera explores the specificity effects in spoken‐word recognition, particularly the role of the talker (inter‐talker and intra‐talker variability), the speech signal, and the listener; the chapter also examines the context, including environmental background sounds, in the representation and processing of specificity in spoken words (Mirman, 2016). The authors delve into different theoretical frameworks and new research questions regarding a comprehensive approach to investigating spoken‐word recognition. Researchers working in the field of spoken‐word recognition are interested in the nature of the representation(s) for each word and how listeners process the incoming signal (Choi et al., 2018; Vitevitch and Luce, 2016).

In Chapter 9, ‘Word Stress in Speech Perception’ Anne Cutler and Alexandra Jesse discuss the role of word stress in speech perception. Some linguistic elements have a greater salience (e.g., words stressed within a sentence, or some syllables stressed within words). Information structure, which is universal, is the determinant factor for the positioning of stress at the sentence level, whereas word phonology, which is language specific, is the determinant factor at the lexical level. Not every language has word stress, but in languages with word stress segmentally matched stressed and unstressed syllables are characterised by different acoustic dimensions and vocabulary structure. Stress placement affects speech perception. The authors emphasise the importance of cues for stress location in the language‐specific vocabulary patterns and the activation and competition processes involved in stress placement.

In Chapter 10, ‘Slips of the Ear’ Z. S. Bond investigates the issue of speech perception and the instances when the content is obscure, the speech is indistinct or muffled, or the listeners experience a slip of the ear, meaning mishearing or misperceptions. The author explores the role of the listeners’ knowledge in these slips, which listeners must employ to recover and resolve unclear or ambiguous utterances. Thus, successful speech perception should match the talker’s production; listeners should be able to perceive and recover the information conveyed. The author provides an overview of all slips of the ear with 250 new examples based on conversations between adults speaking a variety of American English (Shockey & Bond, 2007, 2014), paying attention to the challenges with observational data. The focus of the chapter is on the slips of the tongue and slips of the ear: phonetics, homophones and near homophones, vowels and stress, consonants, not much phonetic resemblance, well‐formedness, casual speech, lost consonants, weak closure or constriction, velarization, /ə/ reduction, palatalization, the shape of words, word boundaries, nonwords, order of segments, function words, syntax and semantics. The author also discusses slips of the ear in other languages.

Chapter 11, ‘Phonotactics in Spoken‐Word Recognition’ by Michael S. Vitevitch and Faisal M. Aljasser deals with phonotactics and its role in oral word recognition. According to Crystal (1980), phonotactics refers to the phonological segments and sequences of phonological segments that are allowed or prohibited in a particular language. Implicit and explicit knowledge of phonotactics affects speech perception (Dupoux et al., 2011). The phonotactic probability can be predicted based on the segments and sequences of segments that are legal within a given language, which has been measured and observed behaviourally, with the help of magnetoencephalography (Pylkkänen et al., 2002), electroencephalography (Hunter, 2013), and hemodynamics (Majerus et al., 2002). The authors provide an overview and critical analysis of the research conducted in the area of phonotactics and speech perception, with an emphasis on new developments in the methods (Vitevitch, 2019).

In Chapter 12, ‘Perception of Formulaic Speech: Structural and Prosodic Characteristics of Formulaic Expressions’ Diana Van Lancker Sidtis and Seung Yun Yang explored the perception of formulaic speech. Formulaic expressions are present in all languages and have been extensively investigated so far within different theoretical paradigms (Cutting & Bock, 1997; Pawley & Syder, 1983; Wood, 2006). The authors provide the definition and examples of formulaic language, its function, mental representation, and evidence for its unique status in a model of language. They also explore the perceptual characteristics of formulaic language, and provide an overview of the previous research. The auditory‐acoustic signal can help to distinguish formulaic language, in particular idioms and proverbs. They describe two important types of formulaic intonation: sarcasm and irony. In addition, the chapter is focused on the dual process model, based on relevant neurological findings, which differentiates formulaic language and novel expressions as essentially different modes of language that engage disparate cerebral processes.

Part III: Perception of Indexical Properties consists of five chapters. Chapter 13, ‘Perception of Dialect Variation’ by Cynthia G. Clopper analyses the research on perceptual dialectology, including the perceptual classification of unfamiliar talkers by regional dialect (Clopper & Pisoni, 2005) and the role of experience in shaping perceptual categories for both children and adults. The researchers are also interested in the nature of the representation of perceptual dialect categories and how they affect speech processing (e.g., Bradlow et al., 1999). Dialect variation and individual talker variability based on gender and idiosyncratic characteristics (Lass et al., 1976) are important factors to be taken into consideration. Recent research is focused on the effect of regional dialect on speech perception, lexical processing, and perceptual adaptation. The authors emphasize the importance of further research on the interface between linguistic representation and speech perception and processing with respect to dialect variation.

Chapter 14, ‘Who We Are: Signalling Personal Identity in Speech’ by Diana Van Lancker Sidtis and Romi Zäske deals with issues such as voice recognition, speech perception and personal identity. Previous research shows that vocal patterns can be preserved for many years. The unique voice features reflect personality (Bertau, 2008; Hermans, 1996). Voice perception and recognition research is based on perceptual, memorial, and response measurement processes. Children have an innate ability to recognize their mother’s voice (Voegtline et al., 2013). There are certain challenges in voice perception due to temporal factors. Recent research examines the nature of the voice as social object and the auditory‐acoustic cues regarding the recognition or discrimination of individual voice patterns, taking into consideration the information carried in the voice and the cerebral functions underlying voice perception and production. The chapter provides an overview of voice research. The results of the clinical studies showed that neurological damage can affect voice perception abilities, whereas functional imaging studies examined brain processes in the normal listener.

In Chapter 15, ‘Perceptual Integration of Linguistic and Non‐Linguistic Properties of Speech’ Lynne C. Nygaard and Christina Y. Tzeng investigate the linguistic and non-linguistic properties of speech production and perception, which affects successful social communication. Speech perception research has focused on the role of such non-linguistic factors as talker‐, group‐, and context‐specific characteristics of speech on the representation and processing of spoken language. The authors examine the consequences of variation in spoken language due to such factors as talker identity, dialect, speaking rate, vocal effort, emotional tone, and other aspects of prosody (McCullough et al., 2019; McKenna & Stepp, 2018).

In Chapter 16, ‘Perceptual Learning of Accented Speech’ Tessa Bent and Melissa Baese‐Berk explore second language pronunciation. Non-native speakers differ from native speakers in terms of pronunciation due to L1 transfer and other linguistic and non-linguistic factors. The production of specific sound contrasts (phonemes) is affected by the relationship between the phoneme systems in the speakers’ L1 and L2 and consequently leads to characteristic accent features (Flege et al., 1999). Accurate word recognition can be challenging due to the divergences from native norms present in non-native‐accented speech. The authors mention that there is a systematicity in speech production by non-native speakers. This systematicity is the focus of research of linguists and cognitive scientists with the aim of revealing the fundamental principles underlying learning and generalization, including perceptual adaptation, category remapping and the retuning of category boundaries.

Chapter 17, ‘Perception of Indexical Properties of Speech by Children’ by Susannah V. Levi delves into speech perception. In particular, she examines talker perception, which is the interaction between talker and linguistic processing, both for children and adults. The author provides a literature review on the research conducted in the area of voice discrimination, which emphasises the ability of the listener to process and understand the linguistic content of the signal, based on phonetic and linguistic cues (Creel & Bregman, 2011). A new area of research has emerged with the focus on speaker/talker properties (Pisoni, 1997), and the relationship between linguistic processing and talker information. The author reports on the development of indexical processing and interaction between indexical and linguistic information in younger (nonadult) listeners.

Part IV: Speech Perception by Special Listeners is comprised of four chapters. In Chapter 18, ‘Speech Perception by Children: The Structural Refinement and Differentiation Model’ Susan Nittrouer provides the definition of the term speech perception and its development over the years, starting approximately 40 years ago. First, the focus was on the process of recovering phonemes from the acoustic signal related to the practical issues of language acquisition research (e.g., child and adult speech perception, reading comprehension). At a later stage, speech perception as a field was more focused on perception as strictly involving the recovery of phonemes (e.g., Mitterer et al., 2013). The author examines the difference between children and adults regarding lexicon and phonemic inventory, sensitivity to acoustic properties in the speech signal, word‐internal phonemic structure, attentional strategies, and the development of organizational schemas for the efficient recovery of phonemic units during speech perception.

Chapter 19, ‘Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Auditory‐Visual Integration: Three Phenomena in Search of Empirical Support’ by Mitchell S. Sommers investigates speech perception and comprehension and their relevance to human communication. Accurate speech perception of auditory speech signals can be affected by external factors such as listening environments and hearing impairment. Known as a bimodal or auditory-visual (AV) benefit or a visual enhancement (VE), this combination of auditory and visual speech cues can enhance the intelligibility and comprehension of oral speech as well as reduce listening effort, especially under adverse listening conditions (Sommers et al., 2005; Sommers & Phelps, 2016). The chapter provided examples of an AV benefit. First, there is the age effect: the younger the learners the more considerable VE effect is observed (Tye‐Murray et al., 2010, 2016). Second, an AV benefit is correlated with individual differences. The author investigates a possible link between the age-related factors and individual variability regarding the VE enhancement.

In Chapter 20, ‘Some Neuromyths and Challenging Questions about Cochlear Implants’ Cynthia R. Hunter and David B. Pisoni present the research on the long-lasting effect of cochlear implants (CI), neural prostheses, on spoken‐language processing in deaf adults and children (Wilson & Dorman, 2008). They show the effectiveness of CI in support of speech perception of deaf adults and children (Wilson et al., 2011). However, there are certain challenges regarding CI research, clinical practice and CI implementation, which are addressed by the authors in the chapter. The authors also address several neuromyths about how CIs work as an interface between the sound environment and spoken‐language processing in the brain. It is important to pay attention to individual variability, neuropsychological and cognitive aspects, audibility and demographic factors when investigating the effect of CI on speech perception and spoken‐language processing.

Chapter 21, ‘Speech Perception Following Focal Brain Injury’ by Emily B. Myers looks into the connection of speech perception and aphasia, an acquired language disorder (Cherney & Robey, 2012; Price, Hope, & Seghier, 2017). There is a heterogeneity in terms of the type and severity of aphasia (e.g., Broca’s or nonfluent and Wernicke’s or fluent), and a deficit in receptive and productive language. The author of the chapter is interested in the case of aphasia sufferers with deficits in processing at the level of sound structure. The chapter provides the answer to the following research questions: (1) To what extent can focal brain injury cause deficits in early stages of the language‐processing stream and what component processes lead to these deficits? (2) To what extent can deficits in processing sound structure lead to comprehension deficits? The chapter has a detailed description of the model of speech‐sound processing based on the literature review of aphasia and neuroimaging research.

Part V: Theoretical Perspectives consists of four chapters. Chapter 22, ‘Acoustic Cues to the Perception of Segmental Phonemes’ by Lawrence J. Raphael delves into the role of acoustic cues in the perception of segmental phonemes of human language. The focus is on the human responses to acoustic stimuli rather than on algorithmic and other analyses of the acoustic signal. The author describes the nature of acoustic cues, and the effect of factors such as phonetic context, speaker, and the linguistic experience of listeners on the primacy of the cues. The listeners can use several cues for perception of speech sounds, which depends on speech articulation (e.g., vowels, stop consonants, fricatives and affricates, nasals, semivowels, and vowels/diphthongs). The chapter discusses the evolution of the concept of the acoustic cue with relevant examples and previous research analysis (Remez, 2005; Stevens, 2002).

In Chapter 23, ‘On the Relation between Speech Perception and Speech Production’ by Jennifer S. Pardo and Robert E. Remez delve into the interface between speech perception and speech production. Speech perception is often presented in association with production. The sound spectrogram provides a framework in which to describe phonemes as sounds. Within the cognitive perspective, the perception of speech was described using phonemes. Within the psychological perspective, perception and production are interrelated (Parker et al., 2017). The authors provide a critique regarding the motor underpinning of speech perception based on the previous studies with the focus on linguistic phonetics, indexical variation, development, and neurology. They claim that perception and production are related in a coordinated rather than a reciprocal way.

Chapter 24, ‘Speech Perception and Reading Ability: What Has Been Learned from Studies of Categorical Perception, Nonword Repetition, and Speech in Noise?’ by Susan Brady and Axelle Calcus investigates the effect of speech perception on reading ability. Previous research in the field showed that dyslexia and other word-reading problems have common underlying phonological problems (Brady et al., 2011; Pugh & McCardle, 2009). The authors investigated whether poor reading skills and phonological deficit are related to the initial encoding of linguistic input and the underlying quality of phoneme perceptions. Less well‐defined or broader phoneme categories may cause difficulties in acquiring phoneme awareness and consequently the disruption of text decoding and comprehension. Phoneme awareness is also related to verbal and short-term memory as well as to individual speech‐perception differences and developmental changes in speech perception. The authors review and critique the research and methodology in the field of speech perception deficits, in particular three measures of speech perception: categorical perception, nonword repetition, and speech in noise (Van Hirtum et al., 2019; Vanvooren et al., 2017).

In Chapter 25, ‘Cognitive Audiology: An Emerging Landscape in Speech Perception’ David B. Pisoni deals with speech perception and cognitive audiology. He looks into the process of speech production under normal conditions and also as affected by the presence of noise, hearing loss, or an increase in cognitive workload. Oral speech is characterized by acoustic variability. Normal‐hearing listeners do not have a problem adapting to a different speech signal; they can do so without any effect on their ability to process spoken language, which depends on sensory processing and early encoding of speech into phonological and lexical representations of the speech waveform in memory. The author admits that hearing and audibility should not be examined in isolation from the rest of the human information‐processing system (Hafter, 2010; Martin & Clark, 2015). The chapter is devoted to the investigation of cognitive audiology, which is an interdisciplinary field based on the collaboration of clinicians, speech and hearing scientists, and cognitive psychologists focused on hearing and speech communication.


This volume is an important contribution to the research on speech perception, which is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary field comprised of audiology, speech and hearing sciences, behavioural neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science and electrical engineering, linguistics, physiology and biophysics, otology, and experimental psychology. It is addressed to both specialist and nonspecialist. The emphasis on the specific concerns of the perception of spoken language, development and growth of the field of speech perception makes this collection of chapters a unique volume among other books on language and linguistics. This book is essential reading for students of linguistics, language acquisition and education, researchers, practitioners, teachers, educators, and members of the general public who would like to know more about recent developments in the areas of speech perception.


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Sviatlana Karpava is a lecturer in Applied Linguistics in the Department of English Studies at the University of Cyprus. Her main research interests are applied linguistics, first and second language acquisition, bilingualism, multilingualism, sociolinguistics, teaching, and education.

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