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Phonological knowledge and motor planning processes

Research Achievements

Phonological knowledge and motor planning processes

Trainee Ian Coffman, in collaboration with Prof. Brenda Rapp, conducted interdisciplinary research directed at understanding the relationship between phonological knowledge and motor planning processes in speech production. Following a neural infarct, patient VBR pronounces English words such as 'play' and 'spot' as 'pelay' and 'sspot,' respectively -- a pattern similar to how speakers of languages that lack initial consonant clusters such as 'tl-' and 'st-' adapt loanwords from languages that have them. This analogy was seriously pursued: phonological adaptation arises when certain structures are determined to be unpronounceable, which for VBR means that her phonological grammar has adapted itself to a motor speech impairment. Behavioral evidence in support of this hypothesis utilized experimental methods from cognitive neuropsychology and psycholinguistics. Additionally, a formal model of VBR's grammar was proposed, drawing on insights from theoretical phonology.