Auditory Perception Auditory Speech Processing EEG / MEG Evoked Activity Linguistics Papers Place of Articulation Features Publications Speech

New paper out in Jour­nal of Speech, Lan­guage, & Hear­ing Research [Update]

We are hap­py to announce that our paper “Asym­me­tries in the pro­cess­ing of vow­el height” will be appear­ing in the Jour­nal of Speech, Lan­guage, & Hear­ing Research, authored by Philip Mon­a­han, William Idsar­di and Math­ias Scharinger. A short sum­ma­ry is giv­en below:

Pur­pose: Speech per­cep­tion can be described as the trans­for­ma­tion of con­tin­u­ous acoustic infor­ma­tion into dis­crete mem­o­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tions. There­fore, research on neur­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions of speech sounds is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant for a bet­ter under­stand­ing of this trans­for­ma­tion. Speech per­cep­tion mod­els make spe­cif­ic assump­tions regard­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mid vow­els (e.g., [{varepsilon}]) that are artic­u­lat­ed with a neu­tral posi­tion in regard to height. One hypoth­e­sis is that their rep­re­sen­ta­tion is less spe­cif­ic than the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of vow­els with a more spe­cif­ic posi­tion (e.g., [æ]).

Method: In a mag­ne­toen­cephalog­ra­phy study, we test­ed the under­spec­i­fi­ca­tion of mid vow­el in Amer­i­can Eng­lish. Using a mis­match neg­a­tiv­i­ty (MMN) par­a­digm, mid and low lax vow­els ([{varepsilon}]/[æ]), and high and low lax vow­els ([I]/[æ]), were opposed, and M100/N1 dipole source para­me­ters as well as MMN laten­cy and ampli­tude were examined.

Results: Larg­er MMNs occurred when the mid vow­el [{varepsilon}] was a deviant to the stan­dard [æ], a result con­sis­tent with less spe­cif­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tions for mid vow­els. MMNs of equal mag­ni­tude were elicit­ed in the high–low com­par­i­son, con­sis­tent with more spe­cif­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tions for both high and low vow­els. M100 dipole loca­tions sup­port ear­ly vow­el cat­e­go­riza­tion on the basis of lin­guis­ti­cal­ly rel­e­vant acoustic–phonetic features.

Con­clu­sion: We take our results to reflect an abstract long-term rep­re­sen­ta­tion of vow­els that do not include redun­dant spec­i­fi­ca­tions at very ear­ly stages of pro­cess­ing the speech sig­nal. More­over, the dipole loca­tions indi­cate extrac­tion of dis­tinc­tive fea­tures and their map­ping onto rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al­ly faith­ful cor­ti­cal loca­tions (i.e., a fea­ture map).


The paper is avail­able here.


  • Scharinger M, Mon­a­han PJ, Idsar­di WJ. Asym­me­tries in the pro­cess­ing of vow­el height. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2012 Jun;55(3):903–18. PMID: 22232394. [Open with Read]
Auditory Cortex EEG / MEG Evoked Activity Linguistics Papers Publications

New Paper out: HELLO? in press (Neu­roIm­age)

Pho­net­ic cues instan­ta­neous­ly mapped onto dialec­tal cat­e­gories appear to be extract­ed at ear­ly moments in audi­to­ry speech per­cep­tion, as we try to show in our paper

You had me at “Hel­lo”: Rapid extrac­tion of dialect infor­ma­tion from spo­ken words

to appear in Neu­roIm­age (Math­ias Scharinger, Philip Mon­a­han, William Idsardi).

In a mod­i­fied pas­sive odd­ball design, we com­pare the Mis­match Neg­a­tiv­i­ty (MMN) to deviants in one Amer­i­can Eng­lish dialect (Stan­dard Amer­i­can Eng­lish or African-Amer­i­can Ver­nac­u­lar Eng­lish) to the stan­dards of the respec­tive oth­er dialect. In a con­trol con­di­tion, deviants with­in the same dialects have the same aver­aged acoustic dis­tance to their stan­dards than the cross-dialec­tal aver­aged acoustic dis­tance. Stan­dards and deviants were always spo­ken exem­plars of ‘Hel­lo’ in both dialects (ca. 500 ms). MMN effects are sig­nif­i­cant in the cross-dialec­tal con­di­tion only, imply­ing that a pure acoustic stan­dard-deviant dis­tance is not suf­fi­cient to elic­it sub­stan­tial mis­match effects. We inter­pret these find­ings, togeth­er with N1m source local­iza­tion data, as evi­dence for a rapid extrac­tion of dialect infor­ma­tion via salient acoustic-pho­net­ic cues. From the loca­tion and ori­en­ta­tion of the N1m source activ­i­ty, we can infer that dialect switch­es from stan­dards to deviants engage areas in supe­ri­or tem­po­ral sulcus/gyrus.


  • Scharinger M, Mon­a­han PJ, Idsar­di WJ. You had me at “Hel­lo”: Rapid extrac­tion of dialect infor­ma­tion from spo­ken words. Neu­roim­age. 2011 Jun 15;56(4):2329–38. PMID: 21511041. [Open with Read]
Auditory Cortex EEG / MEG Evoked Activity Papers Place of Articulation Features Publications

New Paper out: Com­pre­hen­sive map of a language’s vow­el space

We are glad to announce that our paper (Math­ias Scharinger, Saman­tha Poe, & William Idsar­di) on cor­ti­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Turk­ish vow­els is in press in Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science. In this paper, we extend pre­vi­ous meth­ods of obtain­ing cen­ters of cor­ti­cal activ­i­ty evoked by vow­el exem­plars (e.g. Obleser et al., 2003, on Ger­man) and pro­vide an N1m ECD (Equiv­a­lent Cur­rent Dipole) map of the entire vow­el space of Turk­ish. Intrigu­ing­ly, ECD loca­tions mapped near­ly per­fect to loca­tions in F2/F1 space, although our mod­el com­par­i­son sug­gest­ed that inclu­sion of dis­crete fea­ture based pre­dic­tors for both loca­tions as well as col­lo­ca­tions of vow­els in audi­to­ry cor­tex improves the mod­el fits sub­stan­tial­ly. We dis­cuss the find­ings on the back­ground of neur­al cod­ing schemes for speech-relat­ed audi­to­ry categories.

Fig­ure 1: Loca­tions of Turk­ish vow­el stim­uli in acoustic space (F1,F2, top pan­el) and N1m ECD loca­tions in cor­ti­cal space (lat­er­al-medi­al/an­te­ri­or-pos­te­ri­or/in­fe­ri­or-supe­ri­or, bot­tom panel).

UPDATE: Paper is avail­able here.


  • Scharinger M, Idsar­di WJ, Poe S. A com­pre­hen­sive three-dimen­sion­al cor­ti­cal map of vow­el space. J Cogn Neu­rosci. 2011 Dec;23(12):3972–82. PMID: 21568638. [Open with Read]
Auditory Cortex Auditory Speech Processing EEG / MEG Evoked Activity Linguistics Papers Place of Articulation Features Publications

Paper in press: Are labi­als special?

This went online just a day before Christmas:

Neu­ro­mag­net­ic evi­dence for a fea­t­ur­al dis­tinc­tion of Eng­lish con­so­nants: Sen­sor- and source-space data

by Math­ias Scharinger, Jen­nifer Mer­ick­el, Joshua Riley, and William Idsardi

We want­ed to look at fea­t­ur­al (cat­e­gor­i­cal) place of artic­u­la­tion dis­tinc­tions in Eng­lish con­so­nants, and select­ed labi­al and coro­nal frica­tives and glides for an MMN study. In this study, we looked at sen­sor- and source-space effects of labi­al deviants pre­ced­ed by coro­nal stan­dards and coro­nal deviants pre­ced­ed by labi­al stan­dards, across the two man­ners of artic­u­la­tion, i.e. frica­tives and glides. Note that there are rather dra­mat­ic acoustic dif­fer­ences between these man­ners of artic­u­la­tion: uncor­re­lat­ed noise through nar­row con­stric­tion vs. vow­el-like sound with typ­i­cal res­o­nance fre­quen­cies. We found con­sis­tent place-of-artic­u­la­tion effects, inde­pen­dent of man­ner of artic­u­la­tion: labi­al deviants pro­duced larg­er MMN, con­tra a direc­tion­al hypoth­e­sis of under­spec­i­fi­ca­tion, and dipole source loca­tions fol­lowed the Obleser-gra­di­ent in that labi­als elicit­ed N1m dipoles ante­ri­or to dipoles of coro­nals in audi­to­ry cortex.


  • Scharinger M, Mer­ick­el J, Riley J, Idsar­di WJ. Neu­ro­mag­net­ic evi­dence for a fea­t­ur­al dis­tinc­tion of Eng­lish con­so­nants: sen­sor- and source-space data. Brain Lang. 2011 Feb;116(2):71–82. PMID: 21185073. [Open with Read]