Perspectives on the Study of Speech

Perspectives on the Study of Speech

Perspectives on the Study of Speech

Perspectives on the Study of Speech

Excerpt

The study of speech is an interdisciplinary endeavor that draws on the resources of many fields of science, from linguistics and psychology to ethology and engineering. It has, like many fields of study, experienced an unprecedented and, as yet, undiminished period of growth during the past several decades. The reasons for this growth are many and include the scientific Zeitgeist, the multidisciplinary nature of the science of speech, and, perhaps most importantly, the technological developments that permit the accurate and reliable assessments of empirical phenomena and tests of interesting and competing ideas. Certainly, the development and continuous refinement of instruments and techniques that could analyze and synthesize speech with great precision, as well as record and analyze the electrophysiological indicants of speech production, have yielded knowledge that otherwise would not be possible.

The acquisition of this knowledge has occurred in virtually all of the research areas that comprise the study of speech, although not always to the same extent. Indeed, in some aspects of research, progress has been so extensive and so rapid that it is difficult to believe that it has happened in the relatively short period of time since the early 1950s. During this period, we have learned, for example, much of what is known about the acoustic correlates of phonetic distinctions and their perception, the neuromuscular activity of speech production, and the inherent abilities that the human infant brings to the task of learning to perceive, produce, and understand the sounds of speech. We must note, however, that although we are willing to argue that the study of speech has met with notable success in recent times, we do not wish to imply that we are on the verge of achieving a comprehensive understanding of the processes and laws that govern speech. There is, as in all sciences, much that remains unknown.

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