A Cognitive and Computational Investigation of Combinatorial Speech
This is a project sponsored by the BrainsBack to Brussels initiative of the Brussels region. It intends to investigate the cognitive mechanisms that give us combinatorial speech in order to establish how these mechanisms could have evolved. Combinatorial speech is the ability to make new words by recombining pre-existing speech sounds. Humans are the only apes that can do this, yet we do not know how our brains do it, nor how exactly we differ from other apes, and hence we cannot propose a plausible scenario of how it evolved. Using new experimental techniques to study human behavior and new computational techniques to model human cognition, the project will find out how we deal with combinatorial speech and how this ability may have evolved.
The project will advance science in four ways: it will provide insight into how our unique ability for using combinatorial speech works and how it evolved, it will tell us how this is implemented in the brain, it will extend the novel methodology of experimental cultural learning and it will create new computer models for dealing with human speech.