[PLUG-TALK] Yanny/Laurel

Denis Heidtmann denis.heidtmann at gmail.com
Sun Sep 8 16:26:03 PDT 2019

Did you listen to the pitch-shifted samples?  Did they change what you

On Sun, Sep 8, 2019 at 10:04 AM John Jason Jordan <johnxj at gmx.com> wrote:

> On Sun, 8 Sep 2019 08:12:34 -0700
> Denis Heidtmann <denis.heidtmann at gmail.com> dijo:
> >John-I would like your comments:
> >
> https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/may/16/yanny-or-laurel-sound-illusion-sets-off-ear-splitting-arguments
> I read the article and my comment is that all the observations made by
> the various people cited were valid.
> One of the points I would like to emphasize is what linguists refer to
> as 'top-down' processing v. 'bottom-up' processing of input information.
> According to the article Prof Hugh McDermott alluded to this, but it
> bears elaborating.
> Bottom-up processing (in phonetic input) is the actual sound heard by
> the ears. Most commentators in the article concentrated on variation in
> the input - frequency, dialect of the speaker, quality of the output
> device, etc. These are all bottom-up arguments.
> To-down processing happens when the brain uses previously acquired
> knowledge to interpret the sounds. As McDermott put it “If you heard a
> conversation happening around you regarding ‘Laurel’ you wouldn’t have
> heard ‘Yanny’. In his example, context is key to understanding. But
> context is not all that we use when we interpret what we hear - even
> things as basic as our knowledge of the language make a difference. For
> example if you hear the word 'the' you know that the following word
> must be a noun or a nominal modifier. Even interpreting the sounds that
> you hear is impacted by top-down processing. For example, if you speak
> English fluently then you have acquired the very complex set of English
> phonological rules - e.g., if you hear an [s] then you know the next
> sound must be a vowel or a stop, but not an [f] or a [v] (not counting
> foreign words).
> In my case I heard 'Laurel,' but I must point out that I have never ever
> heard 'Yanny.' And I must also emphasize that I have taken graduate
> level courses in both articulatory and acoustic phonetics, where I had
> to train my ears to listen acutely. A research rule in linguistics is
> never to use data from a linguist.
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