Cognitive Phonetics: The Transduction of Distinctive Features at the Phonology-Phonetics Interface


  • Veno Volenec Orcid
  • Charles Reiss


We propose that the interface between phonology and phonetics is mediated by a transduction process that converts elementary units of phonological computation, features, into temporally coordinated neuromuscular patterns, called ‘True Phonetic Representations’, which are directly interpretable by the motor system of speech production. Our view of the interface is constrained by substance-free generative phonological assumptions and by insights gained from psycholinguistic and phonetic models of speech production. To distinguish transduction of abstract phonological units into planned neuromuscular patterns from the biomechanics of speech production usually associated with physiological phonetics, we have termed this interface theory ‘Cognitive Phonetics’ (CP). The inner workings of CP are described in terms of Marr’s (1982/2010) tri-level approach, which we used to construct a linking hypothesis relating formal phonology to neurobiological activity. Potential neurobiological correlates supporting various parts of CP are presented. We also argue that CP augments the study of certain phonetic phenomena, most notably coarticulation, and suggest that some phenomena usually considered phonological (e.g., naturalness and gradience) receive better explanations within CP.