Cognitive Neuropsychology

Repeating a spoken word immediately after hearing it is an apparently simple task. However, many braindamaged patients experience difficulties with this task even though audiometric testing reveals they are not deaf. Detailed analysis of these patients suggests there are various processes that can be used to permit repetition of a spoken word.

Information from such patients was used by Ellis and Young (1988) to propose a model of the processing of spoken words (see Figure 11.3 for a modified version). The model consists of five components:

• The auditory analysis system is used to extract phonemes or other sounds from the speech wave.

• The auditory input lexicon contains information about spoken words known to the listener, but does not contain information about their meaning. The purpose of this lexicon is to recognise familiar words via the activation of the appropriate word units.

• The meanings of words are stored within the semantic system (cf. semantic memory, which is discussed in Chapter 7).

• The speech output lexicon serves to provide the spoken forms of words.

• The phoneme response buffer provides distinctive speech sounds.

• These components can be used in various combinations, so there are three different routes between hearing a spoken word and saying it.

The most striking feature of the model is the notion that saying a spoken word can be achieved using three different routes. It is this feature of the model to which we will devote the most attention. Before doing so, however, we will consider the role of the auditory analysis system in speech perception.

Auditory analysis system

Suppose that a patient had damage only to the auditory analysis system, thereby producing a deficit in phonemic processing. Such a patient would have impaired speech perception for words and non-words, and this would be especially so for words containing phonemes that are hard to discriminate. However, such a patient would have generally intact speech production, reading, and writing, would have normal perception of non-verbal environmental sounds (e.g., coughs; whistles), and their hearing would not be impaired. Several patients conforming to this pattern have been identified (see Parkin, 1996), and the term pure word deafness has been used to describe their condition.

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