Table_5_Bringing the Nonlinearity of the Movement System to Gestural Theories of Language Use: Multifractal Structure of Spoken English Supports the Compensation for Coarticulation in Human Speech Perception.DOCX
Coarticulation is the tendency for speech vocalization and articulation even at the phonemic level to change with context, and compensation for coarticulation (CfC) reflects the striking human ability to perceive phonemic stability despite this variability. A current controversy centers on whether CfC depends on contrast between formants of a speech-signal spectrogram—specifically, contrast between offset formants concluding context stimuli and onset formants opening the target sound—or on speech-sound variability specific to the coordinative movement of speech articulators (e.g., vocal folds, postural muscles, lips, tongues). This manuscript aims to encode that coordinative-movement context in terms of speech-signal multifractal structure and to determine whether speech's multifractal structure might explain the crucial gestural support for any proposed spectral contrast. We asked human participants to categorize individual target stimuli drawn from an 11-step [ga]-to-[da] continuum as either phonemes “GA” or “DA.” Three groups each heard a specific-type context stimulus preceding target stimuli: either real-speech [al] or [a], sine-wave tones at the third-formant offset frequency of either [al] or [aɹ], and either simulated-speech contexts [al] or [aɹ]. Here, simulating speech contexts involved randomizing the sequence of relatively homogeneous pitch periods within vowel-sound [a] of each [al] and [aɹ]. Crucially, simulated-speech contexts had the same offset and extremely similar vowel formants as and, to additional naïve participants, sounded identical to real-speech contexts. However, randomization distorted original speech-context multifractality, and effects of spectral contrast following speech only appeared after regression modeling of trial-by-trial “GA” judgments controlled for context-stimulus multifractality. Furthermore, simulated-speech contexts elicited faster responses (like tone contexts do) and weakened known biases in CfC, suggesting that spectral contrast depends on the nonlinear interactions across multiple scales that articulatory gestures express through the speech signal. Traditional mouse-tracking behaviors measured as participants moved their computer-mouse cursor to register their “GA”-or-“DA” decisions with mouse-clicks suggest that listening to speech leads the movement system to resonate with the multifractality of context stimuli. We interpret these results as shedding light on a new multifractal terrain upon which to found a better understanding in which movement systems play an important role in shaping how speech perception makes use of acoustic information.