Re: Motor Theory of Speech Perception

From: Dye, Matt (
Date: Mon Apr 28 1997 - 21:18:33 BST

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, Taylor, Karl wrote:

> > (27) The findings about perception by chinchillas:
> >
> > A. are irrelevant to theories of speech perception
> > B. support the motor theory of speech perception
> > C. *contradict the motor theory of speech perception
> > D. support the locus theory of speech perception
> > E. contradict the locus theory of speech perception
> I can remember this from the lecture:
> Some people proposed a new theory, Motor Theory, to explain
> speech perception (which says that it is based on speech
> production), involving categorical perception.
> Someone found out that preverbal infants pocess categorical
> perception.
> The Motor Theorists said "Oh. Well, I guess categorical
> perception is so important that it is hard wired in our
> species."
> Someone else then found out that even chinchillas have this
> thing.
> The Motor Theorists said "Really?! Well, prehaps speech
> simply took advantage of a pre-existing sensitivity in our
> early ancestors."
> But how does this contradict the Motor Theory?
> Speech perception is still based on speeh production.

The issue here has nothing (directly) to do with categorical
perception. The Motor Theory of speech perception states that
we understand what someone is saying, because we know what
movements the speaker has to make in order to produce what they
are saying. Our perception of speech is grounded in our
ability to produce it.

However, chinchillas are capable of perceiving speech sounds.
Chinchillas cannot produce those speech sounds though. We can
therefore conclude that speech can be perceived without the
ability to produce it. RIP the Motor Theory.

Hope this makes things clearer.


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