Department of Phonetics and Linguistics


Welcome to the 10th issue of "Speech, Hearing and Language: UCL Work in Progress", reflecting research in the fields of Speech Sciences, Hearing and Phonetics.

Included here is work resulting from European and nationally-funded projects, as well as research by postgraduate students within the Department. We are particularly proud of the mix of applied and basic work, and strive to bring our hard-won knowledge of the processes of speech and hearing to real-world problems.

We have taken a different approach to the ordering of papers in this edition, grouping contributions by area. The first 4 papers describe various aspects of our work in cochlear implants, relating both to implant design and patient performance. These are followed by a pair of papers on a closely related topic -- the coding of speech information acoustically for profoundly hearing-impaired listeners. These are areas that we have been active in for over 20 years, and they represent a significant proportion of our research efforts.

The next three papers explore the way in which crucial perceptual cues can be enhanced in the acoustic speech signal in order to make it more robust to corruption by, for example, noise or reverberation. Such studies rely, of course on basic studies of the relationship between the acoustic form of the speech signal and our perception of it, the general theme of the following two papers.

Studies of speech production have also formed a focus of our research over the years, and the next paper explores the effects of relative degrees of hydration on voice. Following that is a study representing an extension of the methods developed for speech production to another function of the vocal anatomy -- swallowing.

Finally, there is a paper which represents another relatively new research area, although related to the study of the speech perceptual abilities of dyslexics reported by Adlard and Hazan in these pages in 1994 (and now published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology). Here the more general auditory skills of two children with language disorders are investigated, with a view not only towards determining the causes of the disorders, but also towards appropriate rehabilitative schemes. This paper represents another foray into the investigation of more central aspects of auditory processing, a research area that is growing in the department, and which we will see evidence of in future issues.

The last year has seen a number of changes in our staff. Andrew Simpson has moved to Vocalis, a commercial speech technology company based outside Cambridge. Roel Smits has joined the Philips Research Laboratories to work on speech coding. Jianing Wei is providing support to implant teams all over the U.K. in her role for Advanced Bionics, a manufacturer of cochlear implants, and Linda Stollwerck has moved to the Cochlear Implant Programme at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in Gray's Inn Road. Although we regret their departure, we are pleased to see that we are able, in what many see as our 'ivory tower', to provide the kind of training and environment that develop skills found to be useful in the commercial and clinical spheres.

We also welcome four new members of staff. Mark Downing, who has been working on the materials aspect of our cochlear implant project, has moved to our department from Medical Physics. Harriet Lang, who was a student in the department, and has worked previously here as a researcher, returned to assist in work with cochlear implants and a computer-based initiative for teaching ear-training. Sarah Barrett joined to work with Valerie Hazan on the development of speech-perceptual abilities in children, and is also to be congratulated for obtaining her Ph.D. We look forward to reading about both these aspects of her work in future issues. Finally, Alex Fang, who is working on a number of projects in computational linguistics, has been able to join us at Wolfson House. He brings important linguistic skills to our work in speech and hearing science, particularly with regard to speech synthesis and recognition.

Although University College London provides extensive support for our endeavours, much of our work would not be possible without additional funding from outside bodies. We are therefore honoured to acknowledge contributions from the the Clothworkers Foundation, Defeating Deafness (The Hearing Research Trust), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the European Union (under TIDE, TMR, Copernicus and Language Resources and Engineering), the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Editorial Team
Stuart Rosen, Roel Smits and Martyn Holland


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