Acoustic and language-specific sources for phonemic abstraction from speech

Mai, A., Riès, S., Ben-Haim, S., Shih, J. J., & Gentner, T. Q. (2024). Acoustic and language-specific sources for phonemic abstraction from speech. Nature Communications, 15: 677. doi:10.1038/s41467-024-44844-9.
Spoken language comprehension requires abstraction of linguistic information from speech, but the interaction between auditory and linguistic processing of speech remains poorly understood. Here, we investigate the nature of this abstraction using neural responses recorded intracranially while participants listened to conversational English speech. Capitalizing on multiple, language-specific patterns where phonological and acoustic information diverge, we demonstrate the causal efficacy of the phoneme as a unit of analysis and dissociate the unique contributions of phonemic and spectrographic information to neural responses. Quantitive higher-order response models also reveal that unique contributions of phonological information are carried in the covariance structure of the stimulus-response relationship. This suggests that linguistic abstraction is shaped by neurobiological mechanisms that involve integration across multiple spectro-temporal features and prior phonological information. These results link speech acoustics to phonology and morphosyntax, substantiating predictions about abstractness in linguistic theory and providing evidence for the acoustic features that support that abstraction.
Additional information
supplementary information
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date

Share this page