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There used to be and to some extent still is a feeling among linguists that the psychology of a language is more particularly concerned with its grammatical features, but that its sounds and its phonetic processes belong to a grosser physiological substratum. Thus, we sometimes hear it said that such phonetic processes as the palatalizing of a vowel by a following i or other front vowel ("-umlaut”) or the series of shifts in the manner of articulating the old Indo-European stopped consonants which have become celebrated under the name of "Grimm's Law" are merely mechanical processes, consummated by the organs of speech and by the nerves that control them as a set of shifts in relatively simple sensorimotor habits. It is my purpose in this paper, as briefly as may be, to indicate that the sounds and sound processes of speech cannot be properly understood in such simple, mechanical terms.

Perhaps the best way to pose the problem of the psychology of speech sounds is to compare an actual speech sound with an identical or similar one not used in a linguistic context. It will become evident almost at once that it is a great fallacy to think of the articulation of a speech sound as a motor habit that is merely intended to bring about a directly significant result. A good example of superficially similar sounds is the wh of such a word as when, as generally pronounced in America (i.e., voiceless w or, perhaps more accurately analyzed, aspiration plus voiceless w plus voiced w-glide), and the sound made in blowing out a candle, with which it has often been compared. We are not at the present moment greatly interested in whether these two articulations are really identical or, at the least, very similar. Let us assume that a typically pronounced wh is identical with the sound that results from the expulsion of breath through pursed lips when a candle is blown out. We shall assume identity of both articulation and quality of perception. Does this identity amount to a psychological identity of the two processes? Obviously not. It is worth pointing out, in what may seem pedantic detail, wherein they differ.

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