A Neural Network Model of Speech Acquisition and Motor Equivalent Speech Production
This article describes a neural network model that addresses the acquisition of speaking skills by infants and subsequent motor equivalent production of speech sounds. The model learns two mappings during a babbling phase. A phonetic-to-orosensory mapping specifies a vocal tract target for each speech sound; these targets take the form of convex regions in orosensory coordinates defining the shape of the vocal tract. The babbling process wherein these convex region targets are formed explains how an infant can learn phoneme-specific and language-specific limits on acceptable variability of articulator movements. The model also learns an orosensory-to-articulatory mapping wherein cells coding desired movement directions in orosensory space learn articulator movements that achieve these orosensory movement directions. The resulting mapping provides a natural explanation for the formation of coordinative structures. This mapping also makes efficient use of redundancy in the articulator system, thereby providing the model with motor equivalent capabilities. Simulations verify the model's ability to compensate for constraints or perturbations applied to the articulators automatically and without new learning and to explain contextual variability seen in human speech production.