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Linguistics Colloquium Series: Rachel Theodore - Listener sensitivity to structured phonetic variation

When: Friday, October 8, 2021
3:30 PM - 5:30 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Talant Abdykairov   (847) 467-3384

Group: Linguistics Department

Category: Academic


If we can learn anything from binge-watching Law and Order, it is that eye-witness testimony is very unreliable. This is not surprising given the literature on memory for spoken language, which shows that although memory for the meaning of our interlocutors' messages is quite good, memory for the specific form of the message is relatively poor. Poor memory for linguistic form is striking when considering that listeners show exquisite sensitivity to the acoustic-phonetic structure of speech during the early stages of mapping from speech to meaning. In this talk, I will review work from our laboratory that examines listeners' ability to dynamically adapt to structured phonetic variation, focusing on variation associated with individual talkers' idiolects. These studies examine the mechanisms that allow listeners to exploit structured variation for speech perception and voice recognition. In doing so, these findings help explicate a theoretical framework that can account for the tension in a linguistic architecture that uses both abstract and instance-specific representational knowledge to guide language comprehension.

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