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What can speech errors tell us about the cognitive process of speech production planning?




RLE: Research Lab for Electronics

Faculty Supervisor:

Stefanie Hufnagel

Faculty email:


Apply by:

Sept 15



Project Description

Entry-level UROP position in speech and language Cognitive models of speech production have often used speech error patterns as evidence for the representations and mechanisms involved in the speech production planning process. For example, speakers occasionally reverse two words in an utterance (Every time I sew a button off it comes on again), or two sounds (sweater drying → dretter swying), but almost never two syllables, suggesting that there is a serial ordering process for words, and for individual sounds, but not for syllables. Another type of error, the blending of two words, as in back for batch+pack, raises the question of whether these errors arise at the semantic level (between two nearly-synonymous words), at the phonological level (between words that share a sound at the blend point), or both. This question has implications for models of the speech production process, and the UROP project involves analyzing a large collection of such word blend errors, to determine what is similar about the two members of a blend pair. This is an entry-level position, suitable for someone interested in linguistics, psycholinguistics and/or how behavioral evidence can be used to evaluate models of cognitive processing. Available for credit or pay ($13.50/hour); 10 hours/week commitment; contact Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, Speech Communication Group, Research Laboratory of Electronics, sshuf@mit.edu.


Some familiarity with basic concepts in linguistics and/or cognition is desirable but not required; curiosity about language and speech, and an interest in using measurable behavior to test models of cognitive processing, are important for this position