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The Self-Organization of Speech Sounds

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Document pages: 29 pages

Abstract: The speech code is a vehicle of language: it definesa set of forms used by a community to carry information.Such a code is necessary to support the linguisticinteractions that allow humans to communicate. How then may a speech code be formed prior to the existence of linguistic interactions?Moreover, the human speech code is discrete and compositional,shared by all the individuals of a community but differentacross communities, and phoneme inventories are characterized bystatistical regularities. How can a speech code with these properties form? We try to approach these questions in the paper,using the ``methodology of the artificial . We build a society of artificial agents, and detail a mechanism thatshows the formation of a discrete speech code without pre-supposingthe existence of linguistic capacities or of coordinated interactions.The mechanism is based on a low-level model ofsensory-motor interactions. We show that the integration of certain very simple and non language-specific neural devices leads to the formation of a speech code thathas properties similar to the human speech code.This result relies on the self-organizing properties of a genericcoupling between perception and productionwithin agents, and on the interactions between agents.The artificial system helps us to develop better intuitions on how speechmight have appeared, by showing how self-organizationmight have helped natural selection to find speech.

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