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Forget about phonemes: Language processing with rich memory

By Robert Port


This paper argues that phones and phonemes play almost no psychological role in human speech perception, production or memory. Instead, people store language in memory with a rich, detailed auditory and coupled sensory-motor code that is idiosyncratic to the speaker. The evidence is overwhelming that linguistic memory consists of rich, highly redundant (and idiosyncratic) memories of heard language. Now if only statistical definitions are possible for the minimal linguistic units of language, then the rest of language also cannot have a fixed inventory of units, whether words or syntactic units. The engineering implications are that language processing systems that hope to emulate human performance should seek ways to store large amounts of high-dimensional data about speech and find ways to use these rich memories. Index Terms: speech processing, speech production, speech perception, exemplar memory, rich memory, languag

Topics: engineering
Year: 2010
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