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Department of Psychology


Modifying the vocal tract alters a speaker’s previously learned acoustic–articulatory relationship. This study investigated the contribution of auditory feedback to the process of adapting to vocal-tract modifications. Subjects said the word /tɑs/ while wearing a dental prosthesis that extended the length of their maxillary incisor teeth. The prosthesis affected /s/ productions and the subjects were asked to learn to produce ‘‘normal’’ /s/’s. They alternately received normal auditory feedback and noise that masked their natural feedback during productions. Acoustic analysis of the speakers’ /s/ productions showed that the distribution of energy across the spectra moved toward that of normal, unperturbed production with increased experience with the prosthesis. However, the acoustic analysis did not show any significant differences in learning dependent on auditory feedback. By contrast, when naive listeners were asked to rate the quality of the speakers’ utterances, productions made when auditory feedback was available were evaluated to be closer to the subjects’ normal productions than when feedback was masked. The perceptual analysis showed that speakers were able to use auditory information to partially compensate for the vocal-tract modification. Furthermore, utterances produced during the masked conditions also improved over a session, demonstrating that the compensatory articulations were learned and available after auditory feedback was removed.