Spoken Word Recognition: Historical Roots, Current Theoretical Issues, and Some New Directions

David Pisoni, Conor T. McLennan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


The most distinctive hallmark of human spoken word recognition (SWR) is its perceptual robustness to the presence of acoustic variability in the transmission and reception of the talker's linguistic message. Normal-hearing listeners adapt rapidly with little apparent effort to many different sources of variability in the speech signal and their immediate listening environment. Sensory processing and early encoding of speech into lexical representations are critical for robust SWR. However, audibility and sensory processing are not sufficient to account for the robust nature of SWR, especially under degraded listening conditions. In this chapter, we describe the historical roots of the field, present a selective review of the principle theoretical issues, and then consider several contemporary models of SWR. We conclude by identifying promising new directions and future challenges, including the perception of foreign accented speech, SWR by deaf children with cochlear implants, bilinguals, and older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeurobiology of Language
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780124078628
ISBN (Print)9780124077942
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Aging and speech perception
  • Bilinguals
  • Deaf children with cochlear implants
  • Foreign-accented speech
  • Lexical access
  • Perceptual robustness
  • Speech perception
  • Spoken word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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