LAFON 67A THE PRIMARY HEARING (road to language) part 27


The first perception we can have of an acoustic phenomenon is located in the primary auditory cortex. Measuring the response time of an individual to a specific sound shows that it can be as long as 140ms. Knowing that it takes 12ms to the signal to reach the cortex, that the action potential lasts for 30ms and that the motor reaction triggered by the afferent fibres of the cortex down to the finger (for pressing the switch) lasts for about 60ms, there is only 30ms left, approximatively, for the signal processing stage, i.e. the identification of a significant phenomenon. The response celerity relies on the attention paid to the signal, and it can only reach the above durations when the processing stage results in a basic, dual interpretation: existence vs non-existence.

A non-significant phenomenon has to be identified promptly and denied through inhibition. One can even wonder whether there is not some kind of systematic denial processes that do not rely on a global auditory cortical activation, but that would be conditioned through a cortical action, so that they are refused prior conscious identification.

Regarding the speech function, image patterning into a significant phenomenon results in symbolisation. We will describe this mechanism later, when we will discuss the nature of a phenomenon.

Symbolisation and the elaboration of basic units of symbols – i.e. phonemes and phonetic words – rely on primary abstraction. This is the first consequence of the classification of significant messages. A phoneme is a unit on its own.

We then move towards verbal thought – the basis for conceptualisation – which uses linguistic words as units and is based on phonetic symbols.

The basic units, phoneme and word, are more of an analytical nature than interdependent elements per se: there is no direct transition from a phoneme to a word, whereas there is a direct evolution from symbolisation elements to conceptualisation. This is an important notion, as those principles are the basis for the fundamental distinction between a phoneme and the knowledge of this phoneme, as well as between the language and the knowledge of language.

The structuration of auditory integration is based on the capacity to reproduce speech: for simplification purposes, this element was deliberately omitted herein. … » (1).

Coming next: the scheme “that helps to follow the pathway of messages across the auditory processing and to easily identify the field of action of every activity of the auditory function » (2).


(1) Professor J.C. LAFON « message et phonétique » (« message and phonetics ») pp. 69-70.

(2) Professor J.C. LAFON « message et phonétique » (« message and phonetics ») page 69.

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