Psychology of Language

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1 PSYCH 155/LING 155 UCI COGNITIVE SCIENCES syn lab Psychology of Language Prof. Jon Sprouse Lecture 3: Sound and Speech Sounds 1

2 The representations and processes of starting representation Language sensory acoustic phonetic S lexical syntactic conceptual dʒɑn VP bɑt NP ə kɑr final representation 2

3 The representation of speech sounds The first step in language comprehension is to transform the physical signal (e.g., speech sounds) into a mental representation. sound waves enter through the hearing system This is the job of the hearing system (e.g., the ears and auditory cortex) - the hearing system converts external physical sound stimuli into mental representations. So we can start our discussion with two questions: 1. What are the (external) physical properties of sound 2. Which of those properties are critical for language? 3

4 Some physical properties of sound (i.e., properties of the external signal) 4

5 What is sound? What is sound? Distortions in air pressure Distortions travel in waves: ripples on a pond, waves in the ocean Sound waves are distortion in air pressure The eardrum can detect these distortions, and your brain interprets these distortions as sound 5

6 What is a sound wave, really? Sound travels through air, and air is a gas. Gas molecules fill whatever size space they are given. space 1 twice the volume, half the density You can push certain air molecules closer together for a time (increase the air pressure, called compression): compression 6

7 Compression and Rarefaction When you push air molecules closer together (compression), you also create a space behind the compression that is less dense called rarefaction. compression Compression and rarefaction are two opposing forces - compression causes rarefaction behind it. And because gas molecules want to equalize their density in a given space, compression of one set of molecules will cause a wave of compression to occur throughout the space as the compressed molecules try to get away from each other. 7

8 A spatial visualization of the propagation of a sound wave The best way to visualize the way that a compression wave travels through space is with a slinky: If you push one end of a stretched slinky, you can see the first set of coils compress, and watch the compression wave spread across the slinky as the coils try to equalize their density. 8

9 A temporal visualization of sound waves... The way that sound waves propagate through space is not very important for our purposes (we ll leave that to physicists). Instead, we are interested in the way that they propagate through time. This is because speech sound is rarely just a single act of compression (one wave). Instead, sound sources are usually a series of compressions that occur with a specific frequency. To visualize the temporal properties of sound, we focus on a single point in space (i.e., there is no spatial information at all), and draw the compressions and rarefactions that occur over time at that single point in space. crest = higher air pressure, coincides with compression normal pressure time trough = lower air pressure coincides with rarefaction 9

10 Describing Sound Waves Once you have the temporal representation of sound waves, you can describe their properties: amplitude: the size of the distortion, measured in distance the molecules move during compression and rarefaction. This is how much energy the wave has. The more energy, the larger the amplitude, the more the air molecules are moved. We perceive increases in amplitude as increases in loudness. 10

11 Describing Sound Waves You can describe the properties of sound waves: frequency: the number of cycles of the wave per second. A complete cycle is compression, rarefaction, return to normal. 3 cycles per second 12 cycles per second We perceive increases in frequency as increases in pitch. 11

12 Describing Sound Waves You can describe the properties of sound waves: frequency: the number of cycles of the wave per second. A complete cycle is compression, rarefaction, return to normal. Hertz (Hz): the number of cycles per second 1Hz = 1 cycle per second 10Hz = 10 cycles per second 10,000Hz = 10,000 cycles per second Human hearing can detect frequencies in the range of 10Hz-20,000Hz However, most people lose the ability to detect high frequencies as they age... this was the science behind those teenager only ringtones! 12

13 Fundamental frequency Guitar Guitars have strings. Each string is a different thickness. This makes each string vibrate at a different frequency, which leads to different tones (which in music we call notes): E B Hz Hz G 196 Hz D Hz A 110 Hz E 82.4 Hz fundamental frequency (F0): every object has it s own fundamental frequency, it is the frequency at which that object vibrates. 13

14 Human Voice Fundamental frequency Your voice has a fundamental frequency (F0) too. It is created by your vocal cords (which are really two flaps or membranes that vibrate): For males it is around 130hz (C) for females it is around 220hz (A - almost an octave difference!) BTW: Middle C is 261.6Hz 14

15 Harmonics Harmonics: multiples of the fundamental frequency When an object vibrates at its fundamental frequency, harmonics are also activated: F0 100 Hz F0 200 Hz F0 400 Hz 1st 200 Hz 1st 400 Hz 1st 800 Hz 2nd 300 Hz 2nd 600 Hz 2nd 1200 Hz 3rd 400 Hz 3rd 800 Hz 3rd 1600 Hz 4th 500 Hz 4th 1000 Hz 4th 2000 Hz 5th 600 Hz 5th 1200 Hz 5th 1400 Hz 15

16 Resonance If you ask any teenager in a garage band what the difference is between an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar, they will say that one has a hollow body and one has a solid body. And what does this difference mean for the instrument? One difference is that an acoustic guitar is louder than the electric. That s why electric guitars need amplifiers. The difference in loudness (amplitude) between the two is due to resonance. But don t get fooled into thinking that resonance is just about the loudness of an instrument... we will see shortly that resonance changes more than that! 16

17 Resonance and hollow bodies Resonance is a property of all objects. It is the fact that objects vibrate at a certain frequency. Resonance is what gives rise to the idea that you can shatter a glass by signing: the glass has a frequency at which it vibrates, and if you make it vibrate strongly enough, it might break. We are actually interested in the resonance that occurs inside of hollow bodies like the body of a guitar: sound waves reflect off of the walls! wall wall reflected wave 2 reflected wave 1 original wave This reflection causes some interesting things to happen to the sound waves through a process called interference. 17

18 Resonance and hollow bodies There are two types of interference that can be created through resonance within hollow bodies: Constructive interference is when the peaks of the reflected waves line up. This doubles the amplitude of those waves! The two reflected waves are in phase, which means that air molecules are being compressed by two forces at once. This doubles the compression, and thus doubles the amplitude of the wave. 18

19 Resonance and hollow bodies There are two types of interference that can be created through resonance within hollow bodies: Destructive interference is when the peaks of one wave line up with the trough of a second wave. This cancels out the wave! The two reflected waves are out of phase, which means that air molecules are being compressed and rarefacted at the same time. These opposing forces cancel each other out, such that there is no change in air pressure (no wave). 19

20 Resonance bands It is rare for waves to line up perfectly, or to mis-align perfectly. Instead, you find ranges of frequencies that are amplified, and ranges of frequencies that are de-amplified. We call these ranges resonance bands. 20

21 Harmonics and Resonance Bands Harmonics also create resonance bands So, when you play an A on a guitar at 110Hz, the body might also resonate in a band around the harmonic at 220Hz, perhaps Hz. It might also resonate in a band around the harmonic at 440Hz, perhaps Hz. frequency H4 H3 H2 H1 F0 Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 The resonance bands are what make an instrument sound richer than a note played on a string that has no body behind it. 21

22 Harmonics and Resonance Bands The Fundamental frequency determines the frequency of the harmonics (because they are multiples) In an open space, the 1st harmonic will have the highest amplitude (be loudest), the 2nd will have the next highest, etc. frequency H4 H3 H2 H1 F0 Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 22

23 Harmonics and Resonance Bands The Fundamental frequency determines the frequency of the harmonics (because they are multiples) In an open space, the 1st harmonic will have the highest amplitude (be loudest), the 2nd will have the next highest, etc. frequency H4 H3 H2 H1 F0 Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 But when resonance inside an enclosed space happens, the shape of the space determines the prominence of the harmonics. Some will be amplified more than others because they occur within a resonance band of the shape of the body 23

24 Harmonics and Resonance Bands Different instruments have different bodies, and therefore have different resonance bands This means they emphasize of different harmonics. Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 This is why instruments sound different even though they are playing the same note. (In music, they call the resonance bands overtones.) 24

25 The properties of sound that are critical for speech 25

26 Which properties are critical for speech? Sound is a disturbance of air molecules that travels in a wave (compression, rarefaction, return to normal), and like all waves it has the following properties: 1. Amplitude (which we perceive as loudness) 2. Frequency (which we perceive as pitch) a. Fundamental frequency b. Harmonics c. Resonance Bands This just changes loudness This just changes pitch This can t be changed alone How do you change this??? How would we test each of these to determine if they are critical for speech sounds? General process: 1. Say a speech sound (e.g., a or ahh ) 2. Vary the property in question 3. See if the speech sound changes to a different speech sound (e.g., eee ) 26

27 Speech Sounds and Formants In fact, you can change the resonance in your vocal tract! Step 1: Your vocal folds create a fundamental frequency (perhaps 200Hz) that also has some harmonics (say, 400, 600, 800, etc). H4 H3 H2 H1 F0 27

28 Speech Sounds and Formants In fact, you can change the resonance in your vocal tract! Step 2: These harmonics resonate in the body of your instrument. In the case of speech, we have two bodies : the trachea and the oral cavity Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 H4 H3 H2 H1 F0 Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 28

29 Speech Sounds and Formants In fact, you can change the resonance in your vocal tract! Step 3: We call the most prominent harmonic band for each body (that is, the most prominent band NOT created by the F0) a FORMANT. Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 = F2 (the second formant) H4 H3 H2 H1 F0 Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 = F1 (the first formant) We call these FORMANTS because they are the frequency bands that are used to form the speech sound 29

30 Speech Sounds and Formants In fact, you can change the resonance in your vocal tract! We can change which harmonic (band) is made most prominent by changing the shape of the trachea and mouth by moving the tongue! F2: the most prominent band in the mouth The exact frequency of F2 will change based on the shape of the mouth F1: the most prominent band in the trachea The exact frequency of F1 will change based on the shape of the trachea F0: the frequency created by the vocal folds 30

31 A demonstration of the effect of trachea and mouth shape ah ee F2: oral cavity F1: trachea duck call eh oh exhibits/vocal_vowels/ vocal_vowels.html 31

32 Which properties are critical for speech? Sound is a disturbance of air molecules that travels in a wave (compression, rarefaction, return to normal), and like all waves it has the following properties: 1. Amplitude (which we perceive as loudness) 2. Frequency (which we perceive as pitch) a. Fundamental frequency b. Harmonics c. Resonance Bands This just changes loudness This just changes pitch This can t be changed alone We call these formants The reason that you didn t know how to change the resonance of your voice is not because you didn t know how to -- you DO know how to -- the reason is that you don t think of it as resonance, you think of it as talking! (Similarly The reason that you knew how to change the loudness or pitch of your voice is that you don t think of those actions as talking, but as altering your voice.) 32

33 The human voice versus other instruments As we mentioned previously, resonance is important for musical instruments. The reason that a tuba and violin sound different is that they have different resonances. Instruments can t change their resonances because they have rigid bodies. If you want different resonances, you have to use different instruments. Band 5 Band 4 Band 3 Band 2 Band 1 F2 F1 The critical difference between the human voice and instruments is that we can change the shape of our instrument s body, and thus change the resonance. This is why we can make speech sounds, and instruments can t (and why it never sounds like an instrument is talking ). 33

34 Measuring formants We can visualize the formants of speech with a type of graph called a spectrogram: A spectrogram plots frequency on the y-axis And indicates increases in the energy (what we ve been calling prominence ) with dark shading. The dark shaded lines represent frequencies that have lots of energy Hz 4000 Hz 2000 Hz 0 Hz frequency ee oo ah Notice that each dark band occurs at a range of frequencies -- this is why we call them frequency bands. The two lowest frequency bands are F1 and F2, which we can highlight in red. 34

35 The end for today Next time we will look at the details of the acoustic representation of speech sounds, and how this representation is mapped to a more abstract (articulatory) representation... 35

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