From Ear to Cortex A Perspective on What Clinicians Need to Understand About Speech Perception and Language Processing Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2002
From Ear to Cortex
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Susan Nittrouer
    Utah State University, Logan
  • Contact author: Susan Nittrouer, Center for Persons with Disabilities, Utah State University, 6840 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-6840.
    Contact author: Susan Nittrouer, Center for Persons with Disabilities, Utah State University, 6840 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-6840.×
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: Nittrouer@cpd2.usu.edu
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2002
From Ear to Cortex
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2002, Vol. 33, 237-252. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2002/020)
History: Received March 16, 2002 , Accepted July 23, 2002
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2002, Vol. 33, 237-252. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2002/020)
History: Received March 16, 2002; Accepted July 23, 2002
Web of Science® Times Cited: 22

Phoneme-sized phonetic segments are often defined as the most basic unit of language organization. Two common inferences made from this description are that there are clear correlates to phonetic segments in the acoustic speech stream, and that humans have access to these segments from birth. In fact, well-replicated studies have shown that the acoustic signal of speech lacks invariant physical correlates to phonetic segments, and that the ability to recognize segmental structure is not present from the start of language learning. Instead, the young child must learn how to process the complex, generally continuous acoustic speech signal so that phonetic structure can be derived.

This paper describes and reviews experiments that have revealed developmental changes in speech perception that accompany improvements in access to phonetic structure. In addition, this paper explains how these perceptual changes appear to be related to other aspects of language development, such as syntactic abilities and reading. Finally, evidence is provided that these critical developmental changes result from adequate language experience in naturalistic contexts, and accordingly suggests that intervention strategies for children with language learning problems should focus on enhancing language experience in natural contexts.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was supported by Research Grant R01-DC-00633 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to the author, and by Grant P60-00982 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to Boys Town National Research Hospital. The constructive comments of Maureen Higgins, Doug Keefe, and Carol J. Strong on earlier versions of this manuscript are gratefully acknowledged.
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