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By Neil O'Connor

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The ability to perceive speech in a substantially normal way in spite of an almost complete congenital inability to produce speech sequences has been reported by Lenneberg (1962) and MacNeilage, Rootes, and Chase (1967). Liberman has criticized the inference that motor knowledge has no part to play in speech perception in these cases supposing that this knowledge was in fact acquired during a babbling period (Liberman and Mattingley, 1969). A case has been reported (Fourcin and Lenneberg, 1975) where excellent speech comprehension occurred without developmental babbling in a spastic without expressive speech ability, and it seems probable that there are many people who have normal comprehension of speech but who, because of their inability to communicate, cannot make this comprehension evident.

E. the adult pronunciation) and subjected to specific deformations in the process of production; or is it necessary to postulate some third, more abstract or less abstract representation ? For a number of reasons the second of these alternatives seems to be the correct one. I list a selection of these reasons immediately below. (a) The child's understanding of adult speech In addition to the obvious fact that everyone, child or adult, has a greater latent than active command of language it seems clear that children can perceive at a very early age, contrasts they are unable to make until much later.

The possible ability of the congenitally speech-disabled to perceive normally has already been mentioned, and studies have been made of the effect of a speech-productive handicap on speech-perceptual ability (MacNeilage, Rootes, and Chase, 1967). However, it is not easy to be sure in these cases that the responses stem from a primarily auditory rather than an innate articulatory ability. One way of at least beginning to solve this problem is by obtaining the assistance of congenitally speechless listeners in speech-perception experi­ ments which depend on the exercise of primarily auditory skills.

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