What is it about?

The objective of this study is to investigate facets of the human phonological system in an attempt to elucidate the special nature of mental representations and operations underlying some of the errors in speech sound disorders (SSDs). After examining different theories on the mental representations of sounds and their organization in SSDs, we arrive at the conclusion that the existing elucidations on the phonological representations do not suffice to explain some distinctive facets of SSDs. Here, we endorse a hypothesis in favor of representationalism but offer an alternative conceptualization of the phonological representations (PR). We argue that the PR is to be understood in terms of a phonological base that holds information about a segment’s acoustic structure, and which interacts with other levels in the speech sound system in the mind so as to produce a certain sound. We also propose that the PR is connected to an interface module which mediates interactions between the PR and the articulatory system (AS) responsible for the physical manifestation of speech sounds in real time by way of the coordination of activities of speech organs in the vocal tract. We specifically consider different stages of operations within the interface, a specialized system within the cognitive system, which can explain patterns in the SSD data that have so far remained elusive. Positioned between the PR and the AS, the interface module is the heart of the current study. The presence of an interface module is necessitated by the fact that not all errors of SSDs are explainable in terms of structural, motor or even the symbolic misrepresentations at the level of PR. The interface acts as a mediating system mapping sound representations onto articulatory instructions for the actual production of sounds. We believe an interface module such as ours holds the key to explaining at least certain speech disarticulations in SSDs.

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Why is it important?

This work offers a completely new perspective on the psychological basis of sounds in Speech Sound Disorders, and posits that speech sounds representations in the mind have partly acoustic and partly articulatory properties.


This work may have important consequences for an understanding of speech disorders involving sound alternations in children.

Dr Prakash Mondal
Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The mental representation of sounds in speech sound disorders, Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, January 2021, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1057/s41599-021-00706-z.
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