15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Emergence of Discrete Gestures

Louis M. Goldstein

Yale University, USA

In order for constriction actions (gestures) produced by vocal tract articulators to function as phonological primitives, they must be discrete. Two potential sources of discreteness are proposed here: the distinct organs of the oro-facial anatomy that can produce vocal tract constrictions and the differentiation of a given constricting organ's behavior into distinct actions through mutual attunement among the members of a community. Organ distinctions appear to be more fundamental in that they are already respected at birth, while differentiation of organ action requires experience and may differ from language to language, as is shown in a new simulation presented here. These differences are predicted to affect the course of phonological development: systematic, adult-like deployment of organs should precede differentiation of organ action in children's early words. Results of a new study support this prediction.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Goldstein, Louis M. (2003): "Emergence of discrete gestures", In ICPhS-15, 85-88.