The Motor Theory of Speech Perception

In Matthew Nudds & Casey O'Callaghan (eds.), Sounds and Perception: New Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press (2009)
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Abstract
There is a longā€standing project in psychology the goal of which is to explain our ability to perceive speech. The project is motivated by evidence that seems to indicate that the cognitive processing to which speech sounds are subjected is somehow different from the normal processing employed in hearing. The Motor Theory of speech perception was proposed in the 1960s as an attempt to explain this specialness. The first part of this essay is concerned with the Motor Theory's explanandum. It shows that it is rather hard to give a precise account of what the Motor Theory is a theory of. The second part of the essay identifies problems with the theory's explanans: There are difficulties in finding a plausible account of what the content of the Motor Theory is supposed to be.
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