From Maine de Biran to the ‘Motor Theory’ of speech
A note in the history of phonetics
The basic idea of the modern Motor Theory of Speech Perception (Liberman et al. 1963) is that “the perception of speech is tightly linked to the feedback from the speaker’s own articulatory movements”. In this paper we try to show how the same idea was already formulated by the French philosopher Maine de Biran (1805) and taken up in the second half of the 19th century by psychologists (like Steinthal) and linguists (like Kruszewski and Paul). However, whereas in the 19th century the articulatory point of view was not only dominant, but also the only one incorporated in a general theory of language, in the 20th century the articulatory perspective is supplemented by the acoustic one (cf. Malmberg 1967). This was only hinted at by Ferdinand de Saussure in the Cours, but fully expressed in Jakobson & Halle (1956). In this respect, Liberman’s Motor Theory is to be considered much less original than it has been claimed.
Published online: 01 January 1996
Albano Leoni, Federico & Tullio De Mauro
Beckman, Mary E.
Karsten, Gustaf E.
1884–1890 “Prinzipien der Sprachentwickelung”. (Friedrich Techmer’s) Internationale Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft 1.295–307 (1884); 2.258–268 (1885); 3.145–170 (1887); 5.133–144, 399–360 (1890) Leipzig: J. A. Barth. (English translation from the Russian original by Gregory M. Eramian and published in Kruszewski 1995.43–172.) [The entire journal was reprinted, Amsterdam: John Benjamins 1973.]
Liberman, Alvin M., Franklin S. Cooper, K. S. Harris & Peter F. Mac-Neilage
Liberman, Alvin M. & Ignatius G. Mattingly
Magno Caldognetto, Emanuela
Maine de Biran, François-Pierre Gonthier
Saussure, Ferdinand de