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Converging toward a common speech code: imitative and perceptuo-motor recalibration processes in speech production

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International audience Auditory and somatosensory systems play a key role in speech motor control. In the act of speaking, segmental speech movements are programmed to reach phonemic sensory goals, which in turn are used to estimate actual sensory feedback in order to further control production. The adult's tendency to automatically imitate a number of acoustic-phonetic characteristics in another speaker's speech however suggests that speech production not only relies on the intended phonemic sensory goals and actual sensory feedback but also on the processing of external speech inputs. These online adaptive changes in speech production, or phonetic convergence effects, are thought to facilitate conversational exchange by contributing to setting a common perceptuo-motor ground between the speaker and the listener. In line with previous studies on phonetic convergence, we here demonstrate, in a non-interactive situation of communication, online unintentional and voluntary imitative changes in relevant acoustic features of acoustic vowel targets (fundamental and first formant frequencies) during speech production and imitation. In addition, perceptuo-motor recalibration processes, or after-effects, occurred not only after vowel production and imitation but also after auditory categorization of the acoustic vowel targets. Altogether, these findings demonstrate adaptive plasticity of phonemic sensory-motor goals and suggest that, apart from sensory-motor knowledge, speech production continuously draws on perceptual learning from the external speech environment.

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