A Theoretical Investigation of Reference Frames for the Planning of Speech Movements
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Does the speech motor control system utilize invariant vocal tract shape targets of any kind when producing phonemes? We present a four-part theoretical treatment favoring models whose only invariant targets are auditory perceptual targets over models that posit invariant constriction targets. When combined with earlier theoretical and experimental results (Guenther, 1995a,b; Perkell et al., 1993; Savariaux et al., 1995a,b), our hypothesis is that, for vowels and semi-vowels at least, the only invariant targets of the speech production process are multidimensional regions in auditory perceptual space. These auditory perceptual target regions are hypothesized to arise during development as an emergent property of neural map formation in the auditory system (Guenther and Gjaja, 1996), as evidenced by the perceptual magnet effect. Furthermore, speech movements are planned as trajectories in auditory perceptual space. These trajectories are then mapped into articulator movements through a neural mapping that allows motor equivalent variability in constriction locations and degrees when needed, but maintains approximate constriction invariance for a given sound in most instances. These hypotheses are illustrated and substantiated using computer simulations of the DIVA model of speech acquisition and production. Finally, we pose several difficult challenges to proponents of constriction theories based on this theoretical treatment.