On the Perceptual Organization of Speech

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A general account of auditory perceptual organization has developed in the past 2 decades. It relies on primitive devices akin to the Gestalt principles of organization to assign sensory elements to probable groupings and invokes secondary schematic processes to confirm or to repair the possible organization. Although this conceptualization is intended to apply universally, the variety and arrangement of acoustic constituents of speech violate Gestalt principles at numerous junctures, cohering perceptually, nonetheless. The authors report 3 experiments on organization in phonetic perception, using sine wave synthesis to evade the Gestalt rules and the schematic processes alike. These findings falsify a general auditory account, showing that phonetic perceptual organization is achieved by specific sensitivity to the acoustic modulations characteristic of speech signals.

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