Separable processing of consonants and vowels.

Nature 2000 Jan;403(6768):428-30

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

There are two views about the nature of consonants and vowels. One view holds that they are categorically distinct objects that play a fundamental role in the construction of syllables in speech production. The other view is that they are convenient labels for distinguishing between peak (vowel) and non-peak (consonant) parts of a continuous stream of sound that varies in sonority (roughly the degree of openness of the vocal apparatus during speech), or that they are summary labels for bundles of feature segments. Taking the latter view, consonants and vowels do not have an independent status in language processing. Here we provide evidence for the possible categorical distinction between consonants and vowels in the brain. We report the performance of two Italian-speaking aphasics who show contrasting, selective difficulties in producing vowels and consonants. Their performance in producing individual consonants is independent of the sonority value and feature properties of the consonants. This pattern of results suggests that consonants and vowels are processed by distinct neural mechanisms, thereby providing evidence for their independent status in language production.

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http://www.nature.com/articles/35000206
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35000206DOI Listing
January 2000
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