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Stetson, Raymond. Motor Phonetics – T02

Appendix V
Conditioning and the units of speech

How the process of conditioning determines
the syllables and the characterized factors
of syllables

Bell, Sweet, Passy et al. undertook to define the
“sounds” of language as auditory or articulatory
patterns. It was soon apparent that while the words
remained the same in varying conditions, the
“sounds” changed.

F. de Saussure referred the constancy of the words
to la langue, the conceptual language; and he referred
the changing “sounds” to the varying physiological
processes of la parole, the actual speech.

The constant words were assumed to be composed
of stable “phonemes” which, as unchanging attributes,
took the place of the former “sounds”.
And the phonologist faces the question of how all
the variations of a “sound” of la parole come to be
identified as the constant phoneme of la langue.

The fixation of the particular trait of the phoneme,
and the way it functions as a differential in
the syllable, depend on the process in psychology
known as conditioning. The method by which an
animal is conditioned and the method whereby the
syllable is differentiated for the speaker of the
articulate language are essentially the same.

Conditioning has been a fairly successful method
of getting answers from the animal. The dog comes
to respond to the signal which is parsed out and
separated from the mass of noises round him.
Sometimes the signal is a complex noise, a click,
or hiss, or buzz; sometimes it is differential when
the dog is expected, e.g., to learn the difference
between the sound of a fork at 250 cycles per sec.
and the sound of a fork at 260 cycles per sec, or to
respond to the louder of two sounds, etc. So the
members of the household come to distinguish the
front doorbell, the rear doorbell, and the telephone;
and to distinguish the high note of the whistle
teakettle from the low hum of the electric fan.

Animals and human beings learn to respond to
auditory signals in much the same way. The conditioning
process is the same. Traits which are
nearly alike but within the range of the human or
the animal ear may be discriminated, or a group
of obviously different traits may be counted as all-one.
Thus similair traits may be sharply differentiated,
or they may be ‘generalized’ and counted
the same, depending on the circumstances and the
resulting habit formation.

The differentiating trait is never presented as an
isolated occurrence; it is always a phase, an aspect
of a composite event. The experimenter may be
interested in the pitch of the tuning fork which is
sounded for the dog or child; but it is evident that
the dog or child is reacting to a sound in context;
and at first the context in which the sound occurs
may be more important than its pitch. When the
dog or child does not come to respond to the difference
of pitch of the two forks, the pitch has not
been discriminated as a separate factor, however
apparent it may be to the experimenter. If instead
of the usual tuning forks two pitch pipes are substituted,
a new conditioning process is necessary.
In time the dog or child may come to respond to
a whole series of sound sources in which each pair
differs primarily by this given pitch difference.
One is not justified, however, in saying that the dog
or child is listening for the pitch, although the
pitch is the common factor in telling the occurrences
apart. And if now you ask the dog or child
to discriminate a tuning fork and a pitch pipe by
this given pitch difference, you must undertake a
new conditioning process. In fact, a skilled singer
accustomed to a piano accompaniment may find
it difficult to adjust to an organ or an orchestra.

All the traits of the sounds will figure, the quality,
139the loudness; the onset, the termination, the duration
of the sound; and also the context of the
sound in the course of the animal's actions, and of
the series of stimuli to which he is responding.
Though often overlooked, the context and the
timing of the “sound” are part of the event to
which the response is made.

Most recognition is based on the over-all pattern
of the event, not on the discrimination of a single
trait. Only careful investigation will control or
even reveal the “significant factor”. That you may
not demand of a witness the items on which his
identification is based is an established principle
in the law of evidence — since the days when the
‘Law Lords’ decided that a tailor might indeed
know his own stitches but might not be asked how
he knew them. The handwriting expert and the
art specialist may study the details of strokes and
brushwork, but the bank cashier or the art critic
are not aware of unique details; they judge by the

A notation convenient for the conditioning of
animals is also available for the type of conditioning
which stereotypes the articulations of a human

In a project of conditioning the dog, one may
assume that there are to be these basic signal-events:
a click, or a hiss, or a buzz, which have been conditioned
so that they have definite meanings for
the dog, i.e. to each of these signal-events the dog
makes a definite conditioned response. These signal-events
are always composite, and they occur in a
specific context. The signal-events operate in the
field of the dog's actual behavior. Such actual basic
events can be notated: c = click, s = hiss, and
z = buzz. They have an order in the dog's train of
actions, and the order is very important in conditioning,
but order as such does not figure as a signal
or phase of a signal for the dog. (The dog can of
course be conditioned to order, but that is another
matter.) The signal is actually a process and may
have an obvious duration, or may even involve a
temporal pattern. The signals c, s, z, as events in
the dog's behavior may occur again and again in
a series of experiments, or in the course of a single
experiment. They correspond to “la parole”.

When the psychologists set up an experiment,
they talk about these signals as items to handle in
setting up experiments for the dog or other animal.
And they want convenient signs for these signals,
to refer to them in the experiment with the animal,
to lay out the procedure in advance, and to make
records of the experiment. It will be convenient
to use C, click, S, hiss, Z, buzz, which will be distinct
from c, s, z, which indicate the actual occurrences
in the train of a given animal's reactions in
actual life. C, S, Z refer to any possible occurrence
of such signal to any animal producing a specific
response, i.e. to any occurrence of c, s, z which has
happened or will happen in context in the conditioned
reactions of any animal in any laboratory.
C, S, Z generalize c, s, z and refer to them regardless
of any particular species, or any context, and
as mere events, regardless of duration, they are
“zeitlos”. They correspond to la langue. Thus
C, S, Z are the generalized events independent of
any particular occurrence, c, s, z are the actual
conditioned occurrences in a dog's behavior; these
are “signal-events”.

In the course of experimentation it may be interesting
to see what the dog can make of signals in
series; will he respond to a train of signals? The
dog will learn a maze, which is an actual order in
the train of the dog's behavior. If the maze is
separated into “maze-segments”, will the dog recognize
the “segments” and respond to them in a new
order, etc.? For this lay-out we will ask the psychologist
to use a different sort of sign, with provision
for order, and with means of separating groups
of signs. C, S. Z as such will not do because they
are generalized and refer to any occurrence of the
basic events, c, s, z, without reference to order,
repetition, duration, or grouping. The new signs
are to be used when the click, hiss, buzz are items
which occur for the dog in succession. Psychologists
may not see the need of such special signs; left to
themselves they would use the same old C, S, Z
with some extra marks if necessary, and they would
140assume the C, S, Z to mean now the basic events
c, s, z and now the c, s, z items as ordered and
grouped when presented to the dog. We need some
modification of C, S, Z which shows that we refer
to the c, s, z as ordered items in the train of the
dog's actions and we need certain extra marks to
show the precise connections in the ordering and
grouping. This corresponds to the transcription
device used in phonetics.

Let these ordered items in a group be notatcd
c s z s, e.g.; that c begins the group as c-, and that
the second s ends the group as -s, and that the first
s and the z are in the middle of the group as -s- and
-z-. Let the fact that it is a group be indicated by
the spacing, e.g., c s z s s z c z c s. In conditioning
experiments it may prove that the distinction of cand
-s from -s- and -z- is important because the
dog's response to a series when the c- is an initial
item and to a scries when -c is a terminal item may
be unlike his response to a series when the -c- is a
medial item. The trains may be as brief as two
items. It is of interest to see how the dog responds
with longer series when the same items occur again
and again in the train.

Experiments may show that the response of the
animal to a series c s z s, or s z c or z c s is not
directly related to his response to c, s, and z. The
group, the series, becomes a composite signal.
The notation can be formulated as follows:

1. Events in general as signals for animals. C S Z_
A collection with the definite cardinal number 3; no determinate

2. Events in series as signals for animals. c s z_
(Supplemented by additional marks, c-, -c, -c-, and by symbol
of spacing). Linear series; an indeterminate number of events,
since the same event may occur again and again. The order
is determinate. Although not indicated, it is assumed to be
uni-directional to match the temporal order of c, s, z, the
basic events.

3. Basic events, signal-events for animals. c s z_
Linear series of signals as they appear in a dog's actual
train of behavior; the series has the definite uni-directional
ordering in time (items may appear between the signals, but
the signals retain the irreversible succession of the time line,
despite intercalations.)

It seems so easy for the animal psychologist to
keep track of 1) those different facts of the actual
signals as they operate in the dog's behavior, and
of 2) the different uses of the signs for animal signals
in general, and also for the same items arranged
in scries, that he does not take the trouble to
distinguish them. The fact is, however, that by
inventing terminology, reidentifying the terms,
mixing differential with concrete items, the psychologists
have got conditioning into about as bad a
snarl as is phonology.

It is taken for granted that the dog or other
domestic animal will respond to speech signals quite
as well as he does to the click, hiss, and buzz. The
signal may be a single syllabic, a whistle, or a group
of syllables: “Come, Down, Gee, Haw; Here Jack,
Lie down, Dead dog, Sic 'em; Sit up like a man,
Go lie down.” The dog's ear for the differences
in phonemes could easily be tested by varying the
phonemes of the command and making the differences

The dog comes to respond to the specific command
— a group of syllables — if it is properly
introduced into the train of his actions. Some
normal (‘unconditioned’) stimulus situation must
lead to the response which is finally conditioned to
the command. The dog responds only when the
words occur in a definite situation. The dog does
not hear (and respond) when the words occur in
everyday speech even though they have the exact
form of the command.

The dog — or cat — will “answer”, i.e. bark, whine,
141miaow, in response to the speech signal “Speak”
in the proper situation. The conditioning depends
on catching and stereotyping, and reinforcing the
pattern with food or approval (which is the terminus
of action and relaxes tension). When the dog
is bent on winning through, when his whole musculature
is straining toward a given response, his
chance single bark, which may be counted “no”,
or a trochee bark, which may be counted “yes, yes”,
is fixed as the proper response in that situation.
So the dog learns his answers to questions; so the
dog learns to “ask” to be fed or let through a door.

The “talking dog” can imitate the rhythms and
something of the general characteristics of the human
syllable series, if the trainer starts with the dog's
own barks and rhythms, and leads him on to learn
a short, stereotyped train of “syllables”. And the
dog learns to respond to a stereotyped train of syllables
with his own opposite train of syllables to get
food or approval. But he gets mixed up with a
repertory of more than four or five such “questions”
and “answers”. And if he gives the wrong answer,
he may, in desperation, give you his whole box of
syllable tricks, as if to say: “There they all are,
take your pick.”

Although dogs are far more intelligent than birds,
a dog has rather little inclination to imitate. Food
or approval give meaning to the signals for the dog
or young child. But there are other animal “meanings”.
The parrot repeats all sorts of noises, and
long trains of human signals; the mocking bird and
the northern catbird are given to sitting on a branch
at nightfall and rehearsing odds-and-ends of others'
songs that they have picked up during the day. The
odds-and-ends have some meaning to them, or they
would not distinguish such items.

To a limited degree the parrot may make use of
his remarkable repertory of human articulatory
signals, e.g., “Polly wants a cracker”; and he may
whistle a dog insistently, and when the dog comes
up, puzzled, yell and shout “Get out”, and the dog
sneaks off. How near the parrot's animal signals
come to human symbols — which he seems to use
with a third species — and if the parrot and the dog
“reason”, and if not why not, can be left to the
animal psychologist to explain to the owners of the

Although the “talking dog” and the parrot imitate
human syllables, they always handle the train of
signals as a (composite) whole. The dog and the
parrot distinguish “come” and “gun”, but the series
of consonant, vowel, consonant which the phonetician
notes is not a ‘series’ to the animal. Every
syllable has a release, a vowel shape, an arrest, and
may be represented by RVA, rva. But for the
animal, rva is a basic event; rva = c, or s, or z. So
rva rva or rva rva rva are notated as serial items in
the reactions of the talking dog and the parrot who
make the responses in simple series.

The experimenter may speak of “speech signals”
and record them as RVA1, RVA2, etc., but to the
animal they are as unitary as the click, c; the hiss, s;
or the buzz, z. If the experimenter is interested in
the animal's ability to discriminate small phoneme
changes in the “speech” signal — as he is interested
in the animal's ability to discriminate small pitch
changes in a signal — the following conventional
notation will be convenient: “Ah, Go, Come, Down”.
The same notation may be used to indicate rhythmic
speech signals, i.e. feet composed of these syllables.

The following table treats speech signals after the
plan for signals of all sorts given on p. 141.

1. Generalized signs for any occurrence of syllables (and syllable factors) with any animal (including man):

tableau Conventional notation | Notation for syllables as units, indicating a factor for release, for vowel-shaping, and for arrest | Notation for syllables as units, indicating vowel and consonant; with chest release or/and chest arrest, indicated by O.142

2. Schematized signs for any occurrence in group patterns of syllables and syllable factors with any animal (including man):

tableau Notation of syllable units in series, indicating the factors | Notation of syllable units in series, indicating vowel and consonant, and chest release and arrest | Notation of syllable units in series, indicating the specific vowels and consonants | The underlining indicates the breath-pulse of which the releasing, vowel-shaping, and arresting movements are a part. The dotted lines indicate the breath groups of which the syllable pulses arc a part

3. Signs for actual signals as they occur in the train of actions of given animal (or human being):

tableau Syllables as actual units in course of dog's actions; syllables represented as pulses which compose breath groups.

Interpretation of the signs in the table above:

I. The conventional notation of the human speech signal
“Go, come, etc”.

II. RVA, RVA indicates merely that they are “speech
signals” and therefore have some type of release,
arrest, and vowel shape; but there is no indication of
the type.

III. OVO, CVO, etc., indicates the speech signals as
syllables with the release and arrest by the chest (O-, O)
or by a consonant (C-, -C); but no definite consonants
(or vowels) are specified.

IV. rva, rva as in II, save that they are to occur in series.

V. OvO ovO as in III, save that they are to occur in series.

O O indicates chest release and chest arrest, and the
specific vowel - -

goO indicates consonant g-releasing, chest arrest, and
specific vowel - -

O p indicates chest release, consonant p arresting, and
specific vowel - -

k m indicates consonant k releasing, consonant m
arresting; specific vowel.

daun indicates consonant d releasing, consonant n
arresting, specific vowel -au-.

Groups 1 and 2 are types of notation used by the
experimenter. While the items differentiate the
over-all character of the syllables, the items do not
figure as such in the reactions of the animals.

Group 3, syl2, syl3… ,indicate the conditioned
units in the behavior of the animal (or child). The
analysis, goO, O p… is the analysis of the experimenter
but has no place in the animal's behavior. It
is convenient for handling the specific differentials.

Conditioning of the child to speech signals

(46, p. 21-38; 67; 102, p. 281)

At an early stage, three to nine months, the child
often experiments, plays, with a variety of articulations
without reference to the speech about him. It
shows that the child's articulatory apparatus is as
well fitted for any language as for any other.
Anthropologists and psychologists are agreed that
there is no specialization for language. In fact, any
child learns any language with equal ease. It is uncertain
if this early articulatory activity has any
influence on the later speech of the child. Although
a variety of articulations are practiced, the repertory
of the child's future language(s) may not be covered.
This is the first appearance in the child's development
of articulatory events suitable for articulate
143signals (cf. c, s, z and rva, rva, rva of the animal).
It is to be noied that at this babbling stage, the
articulations are always in the form of repeated
syllables. Cf. Lewis and Velten, above.

Before he attempts to speak, the time comes when
the child recognizes human articulate signals as does
the dog. The child responds to his name, and looks
for the dog or cat or toy when it is named, and
comes to know the meaning of “no, no” with headshaking,
and “yes” with nodding. He recognizes the
signal “come” just as he does the gesture of beckoning;
he knows the meaning of “go”, “go outdoors”,
“buggy” just as he knows the meaning of bringing
outdoor wraps, or the go-cart. He responds to the
signal series “milk” just as he does to the preparation
of his food. He may make random articulatory
responses which are not words.

As with any other animal, the conditioning occurs
because the train of articulations is presented with
and before the act or object. The nurse calls his
name as she enters the room, she says his name as
she takes him up; she indicates by gestures with the
proffered object that it is “for Bobby”, etc. Getting
his coat and hat occur before the walk outdoors,
and “go”, “go outdoors”, “buggy” are repeated in
the sequence of getting ready to go out. Reinforced
by repeated outings the articulate signals come to
mean going out. “Milk” is repeated as the bottle or
the cup of milk is prepared and in turn comes to
mean being fed. So the articulate signals become
conditioned stimuli for the child's action or active

The gesture to ‘come’ may be the beginning of the
act of being drawn to the mother and taken up,
and both the gesture and the articulate signal become
conditioned stimuli. Later, when the child is
creeping toward the mother, “Come” is part of his
reception. “No, no” and headshaking are followed
by interference and possibly punishment and come
to be inhibiting conditioned stimuli.

The rise of the child's own peculiar “words” is
interesting. The child makes some chance vocal
response to the coming food, and is immediately
fed; the chance articulation if repeated is reinforced
by more food, and presently the child “has a word”,
i.e. he has an articulate signal which will produce
food (or pet or toy) which becomes “his word” for
the object or act.

Still there is no articulate response to articulate
signals and little that is reciprocal about these speech
signals. They are still on the level of the dog's ways
who responds to his name, performs tricks to articulate
signals, and learns on his own to bark when
he wants to get out or in, or to sit-up-and-beg when
he wants food. To associate with human beings, to
pick up their ways, and respond, marks the “domesticated”

Then comes the time of reciprocal games and the
child imitates what the other does. In peekaboo the
adult hides and peeks, and the child imitates, and
may reproduce the articulate signal “peek”. The
adult pats the child's palms together in “pattycake”,
then pats the child's palm against the adult palm
and the child follows suit, and may repeat “pat,

All along the child may be imitating articulations.
When training the “talking dog”, the trainer imitates
the dog's chance barking; and so the adult imitates
the child's chance articulation, then the child repeats,
and makes a reciprocal game of the alternations of
his own utterance. Presently he may try to imitate
any repeated articulation of the adult. Words are
pronounced which the child imitates, and which
come in the course of the child's actions to have
conditioned meanings, and the child comes to ask
for things and to announce things.

It is natural enough to think of the syllables and
breath groups which the child is to learn as a fixed
pattern; we use such terms as fixing, stereotyping
the consonants (the various ways of releasing or
arresting the syllable) and the vowels (the various
ways of shaping the vocal canal). We know that
the pattern of the syllable and the breath group
varies, but we are prone to think that the child first
learns the slow, careful form which we count the
true form; and then later, has to learn to recognize
the variants from this standard form. But the fact
is that the child catches and tries to reproduce the
144over-all pattern of the breath group and is conditioned
to the variation of the details from the beginning
of the process of recognizing the breath
group and of the process of learning to reproduce
the breath group. So in other forms of conditioning
the subject comes to identify as the same a wide
range of signals; so in early language conditioning
the child identifies as the same the range of the
given breath group in which phonemes change and
shift and syllables may disappear and reappear.
And the child's reproduction often begins with a
variation beyond the tolerance of the language; it is
finally brought within the tolerated range of variation
by the conditioning process of learning to speak
to be understood. The child's efforts, however inadequate,
always involve the whole pattern of a
breath group. This is of primary importance in
handling the changes, shifts, and restorations of
phonemes and syllables.

It seems convenient to teach a foreign language,
and to teach speech to the deaf, in terms of the
slow, careful forms. The result is often a peculiar
classroom dialect, badly infected with the native
speech habits, which determines the silent pronunciation
in reading and interferes in getting the colloquial
language. The dialect can be understood only
by the initiated. The war-time emphasis on colloquial
practice from the start is an excellent corrective
of American methods of language teaching. In
some schools for the deaf curious travesties on the
actual speech are taught and accepted as “correct”
which no outsider finds intelligible.

From the first the articulations of the child are
breath groups; they are usually of one syllable but
they are uttered from the abdominal musculature,
and often have considerable emphasis when uttered
as a demand. The child's management of crying,
and the small harangues, “jabbering”, which some
children indulge in long before they can talk, show
that the mechanism of chest-pulse syllables in abdominal
breath groups functions before speech appears.
But at first the demands of the regulated utterance
make one syllable enough to manage. Soon the
child tries for two syllables, of his name or the name
of some object. Sometimes the two syllables are the
same syllable repeated, “mama, papa, babay, bubbub”.
Presently a simple vowel variation may be
achieved, “da-die, ba-bie, daw-die (doggie), Bobbie”.
Then come unlike syllables “choc'et” (chocolate),
“cwe'-co” (icecream cone) . Though the child
may not be able to follow the detail of the pattern
set, it is significant that the grouping and stress of
the breath group,v i.e. the rhythm of the breath
group, is achieved: “Harriet” becomes “Ha-ha”;
“water” becomes “wa-wa”; “Miss Cope” becomes
“Ko-ko”. This reduplication of a single syllable is
common with children who learn normal speech
very late. They get the rhythm of the breath group
but often repeat a syllable to fill in where they cannot
manage the articulations prescribed. “Persistent
infantile speech”, gives an excellent opportunity to
observe the process of shaping up the phonemes and
syllables within the breath group. However imperfect
the child's speech, which only his associates can
understand, he forms breath groups of the normal
type and the rhythm within these breath groups is
often the clue to his words and meaning. His sounds
are often non-native; a glottal catch for an arresting
consonant, especially k/g is common; and as he
learns the correct articulation of r and l, e.g., his
habitual substitutes of w lead him to labialize the
l or r. But the character of the syllable as released
or arrested is usually normal, and the grouping and
stress of the breath group is attained. Unlike an
adult learning a foreign language, he does not impose
a false rhythm or intonation.

The fundamental movement of the breath group
comes first with the child just as the main movements
of skipping and dancing are learned first and
the details of the steps come later. This insures the
basic train of syllables in the breath group, the
grouping and stress, which constitute the basis for
the traits of the rhythm and of the articulations.
Children get the over-all pattern of the breath
group; they frequently omit syllables as well as
articulations, but they seldom add anything.(67)
The movements of speech constitute an organized
system, not a collection of separate details of articulation.
145If the basic movements are right, many of
the details of articulation and the combinations and
modifications are mechanical and inevitable. The
precise syllables and syllable factors and their wide
variations are acquired pari passu, with the manipulation
of the breath-group movements.

Traits like voicing, nasalization, vowel reduction,
aspiration, come to the child in part by imitation
when the syllable or phrase is repeated to him; and
in part when he finds that his approximation is not
understood and he tries for the conventional form
which works and is thereby reinforced. The child
and the adult who “picks up” a language, never
undertake to separate articulations of the syllable
nor even of the breath group. The repetition of the
same syllable, preserving the rhythm of the breath
group, the substitution of familiar articulation for
the actual “sounds” in the course of the breath
group, the folk etymologies (tu ora — trou aux rats;
asparagus — sparrow grass, etc.) show that such a
learner is always handling the breath group of one
or more syllables. For the child it is the syllable or
group of syllables which is difficult to get, not some
one articulation in the syllable. The sophisticated
adult may practice some foreign articulation in a
simple syllable, but it is hard to incorporate it into
continuous speech; his native speech habits dominate.

Chance phonetic identities from language to language
are unnoticed. The boy from the farm does
not note that the calling of sheep (ü) and pigs
(“pug, pügg”) introduces the umlaut; he struggles
with the German “sounds” as something novel. The
familiar affirmative-negative “grunts” (anh-hanh,
unh-hunh) and the derisive “mp-yinh-yinh” are
identical with the French nasals an (en) un, in. Only
an acute observer notes the French u in the pronunciation
of New York as “ny-york”. -Ng is said to be
arresting only, in English. But it must shift to
releasing in “ring in…” etc., which we realize
when we hear the false, dialectic “ring-gin” — although
in standard English the abutting group
fing-ger, Eng-glish”, are common.

The precision of the child's conditioned articulations
in the train of speech is no greater than the
precision of the various expressive movements which
make up the deportment of his particular nationality
(“race”). The peculiar American swing of the
shoulder and arms, the ‘stealthy’ tread of the American
Indian, the palmsfront of the Javanese carriage
of the arms, the “military” bearing of the
school cadet, the soft, slow enunciation of the
southerner, the high-pitched monotonous voice of
the American in contrast with the low-pitched,
throaty voice of the English woman, are all assumed
in the course of the child's rearing. The bow, the
lifting of the hat, the handshake are quite as specific
and ingrained as is the national speech accent. Some
of these actions are reciprocal and so subject to
correction, “reinforcement”, but some are primarily
imitative and without direct reinforcement. The
American in Japan or China is amazed to find that
his whistle or call means nothing to the ‘native’ dog.
Animals share to some extent in the national signals.

Meantime, at least by a year old, the child begins
to reason, a stage to which the dog never comes,
though he may be astute in other ways. The auditory
signals to which the child responded at first
became articulatory signals which the child employed.
But now the articulatory signals, syllables in
breath groups, have become articulatory symbols.
(18) The child solves problems, forms concepts;
and his ability to name objects, and actions, and to
make verbal recipes, becomes important for this
reasoning process. And thus language with its morphology
and syntax gets under way. While the
child is able to make all the syllables in breath
groups with all their factors and aspects which his
language involves, by two-and-a-half or three years
of age, he will still be learning, the morphological
forms and fitting them into breath groups according
to the basic syntax until perhaps ten years old; his
vocabulary will grow rapidly to twenty-five, and
more slowly thereafter. (105) Although it is not a
problem in phonology, one may note that the child
acquires the complex morphological-syntactic-semantic
apparatus of any language by imitating, by making
or failing to make people understand, and by problem-solving
and invention and experiment of his own.146

The early use of articulatory signals as symbols
separates the child from the dog. The mocking bird
imitates his fellows,; and the parrot imitates the
human species, and they rehearse what they have
heard. But it is never the recital of past events; it is
repertory, not narrative. On the other hand, the
child of two years, just in from his walk, struggles
to tell you what he has seen. He uses the simplest
expression: “Wind b'ow”, “Dog”, “Chou-chou”,
“'It' kitty”, “Dow-down” (fall down), “Aw detty”
(all dirty) etc. There are no connectives, only isolated
substantives; but there are statements and there
may be chronological or logical order.

In setting up a system of signals and symbols for
human speech it is convenient to modify the table of:

1. General symbols for any occurrence of syllables
and syllable factors, designated.
Sign designs; which correspond to C S Z of
animal psychology, p. 142. (There is seldom
occasion to specify the sign designs for the
articulatory signals used with animals). They
constitute the (phoneme) alphabets, and the

2. Schematized symbols for any occurence in series
of syllables and syllable factors, designated.
Sign events; which correspond to c, s, z; c s z s
szc zcs
(p. 142); these are elaborate; constitute
the written form of language; transcriptions.

3. The actual signals as they occur in the train of
human speech activity. These are the phonetic
events, sometimes composed of conditioned
syllables with their specific characterized
factors, which are mere trains of
nonsense syllables. Sometimes composed of
conditioned syllables (with their specific
characterized factors) which have become
symbols and carry linguistic meaning. They
carry both the signal meaning to which the
dog can respond, and the rational meanings
which are always beyond him. The signal,
which may be a symbol, or part of a symbol,
is never less than the syllable; fact which
Twaddell stresses in his version of phonemics.

The great bulk of non-literate language is embodied
in 3, the actual signals, the phonetic events. The
non-literate peoples find no occasion for the analysis
of syllables into characterized factors, although
they are familiar with rimes and varied word-plays
depending on such items. It is the project of phonetic
writing by alphabet or syllabary which forces
such an analysis.

Long effort and experimentation in the course of
history have produced the sign designs, and have
made it possible to arrange sign events in the series
of written language.

1. The Sign Designs: RVA, OVO, CVO, OVC,
CVC, and the detailed, characterized factors
of syllables, in which the releasing articulatory
movements and the arresting movement proves
to be the same movement with a different
function in the syllable. Thus there are the
occlusives; p/b, t/d, k/g, etc. A collection with
a definite cardinal number; no determinate
order, though an arbitrary one is common in
alphabets and syllabaries.
Cf. 1. Generalized Signs
for any occurrence of signals,
(p. 142) RVA | p/b | t/d | k/g

2. The Sign Events: Are a series of sign designs
which constitute a linear series with an indeterminate
number because of repetitions; the
order is determinate; and although not symbolized,
the order is assumed to be un-directional
in order to refer to the temporal order
of 3, actual articulatory signals.
Cf. 2. Schematized signs for group patterns of signals,
(p. 143)

3. The Actual Articulatory Signals: Are the phonetic
tevents which may be either signals or
symbols for the human being.
Cf. 3. Signs for actual signals, (p. 143)

How the child learns to read

By common consent, learning to read is postponed
until the child has some command of the language
in terms of the vernacular; and by common consent
the vernacular is made the basis of the early instruction.
The actual articulatory signals with their
meanings are familiar to the child, differentiated
but unanalyzed of course.147

The present method of teaching reading does not
undertake even a rough analysis. The groups of
signs, letters in series (sign events) are presented —
but without reference to the individual sign events,
the letters. There is no question that the child is not
aware of a series of events in the “word”; he has no
sense of “the factors of the syllable” nor of a series
of separate signs on the page. The child associates
the spoken word and the pictures of his primer with
the (composite) symbol of each of the words. In the
primer the “word method” with its pictures repeats
each breath group again and again, and then repeats
the breath group with a slight variation. This overall
pattern of the word of one or more syllables is
acquired rapidly by most children. There is no
reference to “The Sign Designs”, the collection of
characters of the alphabet; the child is not sure of
his separate letters and, to the horror of some of his
elders, doesn't know the limited collection of letters
in its (pointless) conventional order. “He doesn't
know the alphabet and can't use a dictionary.” He
is in about the same case as those same elders when
they try to read Black-letter capitals, or when
they've come to the stage where they can pronounce
a Greek or Hebrew text, but are not sure of the
individual letters and have half-forgotten the alphabet
in its order.

On the other hand, the printers and designers of
type faces must handle the sign designs as clearly
differentiated; and yet they may design the type,
and they may set it, without knowing any of the
“meanings”. The type for many mathematical symbols
must be so designed and many mathematical
books so set. The printers and designers work entirely
with the sign designs and the sign events. It is
a matter of pattern, not of mathematical meaning;
and they never consider the actual use of the signs
in problem solving or in utterance.

The difficulties of an occasional child who is slow
in learning to read by the “word method” throws
light on the learning process. For a long time the
child has no means of making out the word on the
page for himself; the conditioned stimulus of the
picture, or the unconditioned and reinforcing utterance
of the teacher is necessary. If those fail the
child is helpless. The likenesses and differences of
the one-syllable words, and the division of words
into syllables have not come to him yet. In time he
will be conditioned to the various releasing, vocalic,
and arresting factors of the syllables; he will react
to the “-at family”: “at, bat, cat, fat, gat, hat, gnat,
pat, rat, sat, tat, vat”; to the “pi-family”: “pie,
pike, pied, pile, pine, pyre, pies”. And he will make
an added -e mean a “long vowel”; “ate, bate, cate,
fate, hate, pate, rate, sate; so pipe, pike, pile, pine,
etc.”. As an adult he will come to have a rough-and-ready
system of “phonetic” pronunciation of
English which the catalogs of phonographic records
can depend on to help him ask for what he wants
in the maze of foreign names and titles. The older
teachers are probably right: the knack of picking the
word off the page without outside help, which the
adult finally gets, could be got much earlier and
many children might be saved from balks in learning
to read. But it is important to note that this
does not involve taking the syllables of the words
apart; but it does involve catching the resemblances
of the syllables; using the phoneme to indicate a
class of syllables, as Twaddell would insist. Effective
reading in all its stages is to be taught without
an attempt to break up the syllabic and use the
pieces; and this can be done by comparing the syllables
and getting the child to see how the syllables
are alike and unlike.

Interpretation and evaluation of the notation
of human and animal conditioning to speech

The notation of the signals for the talking dog
and the parrot must be supplemented by a statement
in detail of the situation in which the conditioning
occurred. The list of speech signals of a convenient
analysis (1, alphabet, syllabary, p. 142), and the
experimenter's notated records, 2, p. 143, must be
interpreted by the animal subject's way of dealing
with the speech signals when perceived and reproduced.
In animal psychology we resort at once to
148the actual signal events in the course of the subject's

1. The animal's physiological apparatus sets limitations
in the case of the talking dog, which are
less obvious in the case of the parrot.

2. The animal's capacity for reproducing the speech
signals and for collating the signals with meanings
differs; the dog will respond; he is far more
capable of playing a social game of question and
answer, and of collating the speech signals with
meanings than is the parrot; but the dog does
not have the parrot's remarkable ability to imitate
the sounds of the signals.

3. There is no question that the dog and parrot
deal with the speech signals in syllables and
phrases, “words”; it is always syl1, syl2, syl3
etc., and never OaO goO, O p, etc. The composition
of the signals is written in the notation
of 1 and 2, pp. 142-143, for the convenience of
the experimenter; there is nothing corresponding
in the course of the animal's behavior. The
phonemic notation does not indicate the meaning
which the signal has been conditioned for; for
the meaning to the animal, we must consult the
conditioning procedure.

The conditioning of the child to speech signals
follows much the same pattern. He is in command
of all the types of syllables of his language by the
age of three, as already noted; which can be interpreted
in terms of 2, p. 143, to mean that he “knows
all the phonemes”.

1. The human physiological apparatus for speech
furnishes the human child with the range of
articulatory movements.

2. The child's capacities for perceiving and reproducing
speech signals will enable him to select
from the range of articulatory movements the
component, conditioned movements of the specific
language mechanism. The controllable movements
for the speech signals and the collated
meanings are far more extensive than in the case
of the dog or the parrot.

3. Nevertheless, there is no question that the signal
events, syl1, syl2, syl3, etc., figure as units in the
course of the child's behavior.

Reasoning will play its part in the development
of the language system of the human being. The
child and the adult will come to appreciate rime and
the varied word plays, which an experimenter may
analyze and notate in terms of the “phonemes” (i.e.
the characterized factors of syllables), but the subject
treats them always in terms of syllables in breath
groups and phrases, “words”, and knows nothing of
the types of rime or of the composition of syllables.

Since the accurate determination of a phoneme
alphabet must depend on physiological investigation,
there is every reason to turn to the physiological
process of utterance for a system which will account
for these shifts, changes, lapses and restorations of
the phoneme. Reversible changes, depending on
variations of stress-and-grouping and on rate, are
certainly systematic, and point to activities within
the specific mechanism of the language in question.

And there is an interesting relation between the
reversible changes of the contemporary language
and the irreversible changes of historical phonology.
At each stage of the historical change some generation
or generations must have found the older form
and the newer form of variation at that stage tolerable
and intelligible, because the identity of the
word or phrase has persisted through the most
radical phonological changes. The study of the historical
changes is an excellent clue to the physiological
changes of a contemporary language.

The teaching of reading confirms the statements
about the unit involved in speaking. The teaching
of reading by the “word method” handles the language
in syllable wholes. And it was true in the
days when words were taught by their spelling,
alphabetic or ‘phonic’, that learning by syllables
occurred in spite of the tedious spelling.149