Is speech special?

There is a thriving debate over what aspects of our capacity to produce and understand language are special. My concern here is a key part of this wider debate: Is speech special? In particular, my focus is on speech perception, and whether it is special. This isn’t just one but a number of different questions. Too frequently, these very different questions are not clearly distinguished and kept apart. I discuss a framework for distinguishing various versions of the question, Is speech perceptually special? Focusing on a particular class of questions, I make a proposal about the sense in which speech is perceptually special. According to this account, the capacity to perceive speech is an acquired perceptual skill, and involves learning to hear language-specific types of biologically-significant sounds. This account illuminates the significance of interlocution in understanding what makes the perception of speech distinctive
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