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Phonetics Laboratory
Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics

Exemplar Models of Speech Production

There are two common accounts of speech production in linguistics: the classical view, based on Generative Phonology (eg Chomsky), and exemplar models derived from Experimental Psychology. We will test these two ideas against each other.

In the generative model, tongue motions inspeech are based on a set of shared mental objects and rules. It assumes that tongue motions are computed on the fly.  On the other hand, Exemplar models assume that people store many different examples of words, remembering more and computing less. When speaking, you choose among stored patterns of tongue motion for each word.

Exemplar and generative models make different predictions about the pronunciation of words that you have never spoken before.  Specifically, Exemplar models predict that examples you hear may affect the way you say things. But, classical (generative) models emphasize pre-existing rules and features, so a new word's pronunciation would be defined by global rules not a recent example.  We can distinguish these two models experimentally.

Because the models are very different, if we can disprove one, we may have a substantial impact on our understanding of how the human mind produces language.