The gaits of speech

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Physiological factors of speech production are generally recognized to have a shaping role for spoken language. In particular articulatory effort is thought to be an important factor conditioning variability in spoken language, and is therefore identified as one of the driving factors of sound change. For example, clear speech is often assumed to be more effortful than casual speech. The current paper argues that the evaluation of movement efficiency based on the number of gestures produced or distance travelled by the articulators is too narrow a concept given the complexities of the speech production system. Why this is so is illustrated on the basis of velar loops and dynamically conditioned articulatory reorganization in speech errors. Instead, we argue that articulatory reorganization associated with speaking styles is a hallmark of skill, not speaker ‘laziness’. Different speaking styles and rates should be regarded as being equally cost effective in their given contexts.


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