A specialization for speech perception

Science  27 Jan 1989:
Vol. 243, Issue 4890, pp. 489-494
DOI: 10.1126/science.2643163


The processes that underlie perception of consonants and vowels are specifically phonetic, distinct from those that localize sources and assign auditory qualities to the sound from each source. This specialization, or module, increases the rate of information flow, establishes the parity between sender and receiver that every communication system must have, and provides for the natural development of phonetic structures in the species and in the individual. The phonetic module has certain properties in common with modules that are "closed" (for example, sound localization or echo ranging in bats) and, like other members of this class, is so placed in the architecture of the auditory system as to preempt information that is relevant to its special function. Accordingly, this information is not available to such "open" modules as those for pitch, loudness, and timbre.

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