Speech shadowing

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Speech shadowing is an experimental technique in which subjects repeat speech immediately after hearing it (usually through earphones). The reaction time between hearing a word and pronouncing it can be as short as 254 ms[1] or even 150 ms.[2] This is only the delay duration of a speech syllable. While a person is only asked to repeat words, they also automatically process their syntax and semantics.[1] Words repeated during the practice of shadowing imitate the parlance of the overheard words more than the same words read aloud by that subject.[3] The technique is also used in language learning.

Functional imaging finds that the shadowing of non-words[4] occurs through the dorsal stream that links auditory and motor representations of speech through a pathway that starts in the superior temporal cortex, goes to the inferior parietal cortex and then the posterior inferior frontal cortex (Broca's area).[5]

Speech shadowing was first used as a research technique by the Leningrad Group led by Ludmilla A.Chistovich in the late 1950s.[2][6] It has been used in research into speech perception[1] and stuttering.[7]

Experimental applications[edit]

The speech shadowing technique is used in dichotic listening tests. The first one to apply this technique was E. Colin Cherry in 1953.[8] During dichotic listening tests, subjects are presented with two different messages, one in their right ear and one in their left. The participants are often asked to focus on only one of the different messages and this is where the speech shadowing technique is used. Participants are instructed to shadow the attended message by repeating it out loud with a delay of a few seconds between hearing a word and repeating the word. The speech shadowing technique is significant for these experiments because it ensures that the subjects are attending to the desired message.[9] Various other stimuli are then presented to the other ear, and subjects are afterwards queried on what they can recall from the other message.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Marslen-Wilson, W. (1973). "Linguistic structure and speech shadowing at very short latencies". Nature. 244 (5417): 522–523. doi:10.1038/244522a0. PMID 4621131.
  2. ^ a b Marslen-Wilson, W. D. (1985). "Speech shadowing and speech comprehension". Speech Communication. 4 (1–3): 55–73. doi:10.1016/0167-6393(85)90036-6.
  3. ^ Shockley, K.; Sabadini, L.; Fowler, C. A. (2004). "Imitation in shadowing words". Perception & Psychophysics. 66 (3): 422–429. doi:10.3758/BF03194890. PMID 15283067. PDF[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Peschke, C.; Ziegler, W.; Kappes, J.; Baumgaertner, A. (2009). "Auditory–motor integration during fast repetition: The neuronal correlates of shadowing". NeuroImage. 47 (1): 392–402. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.03.061. PMID 19345269.
  5. ^ Hickok, G.; Poeppel, D. (2004). "Dorsal and ventral streams: A framework for understanding aspects of the functional anatomy of language". Cognition. 92 (1–2): 67–99. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2003.10.011. PMID 15037127.
  6. ^ Chistovich, L. A.; Pickett, J. M.; Porter, R. J. (1998). "Speech research at the I. P. Pavlov Institute in Leningrad/St. Petersburg". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 103 (5): 3024. doi:10.1121/1.422540.
  7. ^ Harbison Jr, D. C.; Porter Jr, R. J.; Tobey, E. A. (1989). "Shadowed and simple reaction times in stutterers and nonstutterers". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 86 (4): 1277–1284. doi:10.1121/1.398742. PMID 2808903.
  8. ^ Cherry 1953, p. 976.
  9. ^ Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience--with coglab manual. (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  10. ^ Cherry 1953, p. 977-979.


  • Bailly, G. (2002). "Close shadowing natural versus synthetic speech". International Journal of Speech Technology. 6 (1): 11–19. doi:10.1023/A:1021091720511.
  • Cherry, E.Colin (1953). "Some Experiments on the Recognition of Speech, with One and with Two Ears". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 25 (5): 975–979. doi:10.1121/1.1907229.
  • Marslen-Wilson, William; Tyler, Lorraine Komisarjevsky (1980). "The temporal structure of spoken language understanding". Cognition. 8 (1): 1–71. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/0010-0277(80)90015-3.
  • Moray, Neville (1959). "Attention in dichotic listening: Affective cues and the influence of instructions". Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 11 (1): 56–60. doi:10.1080/17470215908416289.