Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Today's new word is CORPORA

Corpus is the Latin word for body--of a man or animal, or all the writings or works of an author. Corps is a body of men. Corpulent means fleshy or obese. The city name Corpus Cristi means body of Christ. CORPORA is the plural of corpus. Yesterday at the coffee shop I pulled a little tag from an advertisement asking for people my age to participate in a hearing study by the Psychoacoustics Lab at Ohio State. (If you're interested call 614-292-1643--they pay.) I didn't know what a Psychoacoustics Lab does, so I looked it up.
    In the Psychoacoustics Laboratory we are working on projects that investigate the ability of listeners to extract information from complex, time-varying sounds. These sounds are acoustically similar to speech, music or environmental sounds, but they do not require the cognitive processing necessary to recognize or understand those sounds. We are testing our model of peripheral auditory processing, which suggests that the auditory nervous system responds to the spectral center-of-gravity, COG, of the neural activity generated by such sounds. The COG is the “balance point” for this activity. As the COG changes over time, listeners hear changes in the sounds that are often described as rising or falling pitches.
I had a lot of fun poking around in the speech lab, for instance this vowel corner. I could hardly tell the difference between the women from Ohio and Wisconsin, but western North Carolina was really different.

Anyway, I came across, "The approach taken at the SPA Labs is data-driven and the focus is on constructing large corpora of speech which would provide conclusive answers to the questions asked." At first I thought it was just a collection of data, but I learned that this phrase is very specific to speech research--refers to a collection of recorded utterances used as a basis for language analysis.

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