Joe Toscano

My name is Joe Toscano, and I’m a Beckman Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My research focuses on speech perception and language processing. The links here describe some of my current projects, as well as recent papers and presentations. Click here for more info on my background and research… Read more →

Posted in About

Assessing the assessment

Download Poster

Toscano, J.C., Trevino, A., & Allen, J.B. (2013, October). Assessing the assessment: Measuring listeners’ speech recognition errors for specific consonants and tokens. Poster presented at the 2013 Aging and Speech Communication Conference, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

Abstract: A critical issue for understanding speech perception, as well as assessing the effects of age-related hearing loss, is identifying the factors that cause listeners to make speech recognition errors… Read more →

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Presentations, Publications

Using computer games to study language processing


One of the questions about language processing that we’re interested in is how people provide information by emphasizing different words. For example, someone might say “Give me the RED one”, and emphasize the word RED to contrast it with a different color. How does the talker indicate this in the way they pronounce the word RED? In particular, we would like to know the acoustic cues that talkers use to indicate aspects of prosody, such as the discourse status of a word (whether it was mentioned previously in a conversation or not)… Read more →

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Research

Fast diffuse optical imaging of brain activity


One of the primary goals of my research is to understand how listeners extract linguistic units from the speech signal. A central question concerns whether listeners represent speech sounds in terms of continuous acoustic features or in terms of discrete phoneme categories. Early work in speech perception (Liberman, Harris, Hoffman, & Griffiths, 1952) suggested that speech is perceived in terms of categories and that listeners largely ignore acoustic variation within a phoneme category… Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Research

Computational models of speech perception


By building computer models of the speech system and running simulations with them, we are able to better understand how phonetic categories are learned and how listeners process speech sounds during word recognition. I use several types of models to study speech perception, including neural network and statistical models. Two of the specific problems I am working on are unsupervised learning and cue weighting... Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Research

Measuring cue encoding and categorization


A classic question in speech perception concerns whether listeners are sensitive to the continuous acoustic features in the speech signal independently of phonological information. Recent work has shown that listeners can perceive within-category acoustic differences at the level of lexical representations. However, these responses also show effects of phonological categories. Thus, it is unclear whether there is an earlier stage of processing that is not influenced by category information... Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Research

Cue integration during spoken word recognition


One way for listeners to cope with variability in the speech signal is to use multiple acoustic cues when identifying speech sounds. Multiple cues often contribute to a single phonetic distinction in speech, and listeners can combine different sources of acoustic information to help resolve ambiguity. For example, one of the primary acoustic cues to the voicing distinction in English, the difference between the sounds ‘b’ and ‘p’, is voice-onset time (VOT)... Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Research

Computing the reliability of acoustic information in speech

Invited talk presented at the Dept. of Linguistics, Northwestern University, May 2013.

Abstract: Many researchers have observed that speech sounds vary considerably across different contexts, an issue known as the lack of invariance. Given this variability, how much information is conveyed by individual acoustic cues? That is, how reliably do specific cues distinguish phonological contrasts?.. Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Presentations

Acquiring and adapting phonetic categories in a computational model of speech perception

Toscano, J. C. (2013, April). Invited paper presented at the Workshop on Current Issues and Methods in Speaker Adaptation, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.


Recent work on perceptual adaptation has demonstrated that listeners can learn novel distributions of acoustic cues in unsupervised learning tasks with only a small amount of experience (Clayards, Tanenhaus, Aslin, & Jacobs, 2008, Cognition; Munson, 2011, dissertation)… Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Presentations

A common mechanism for the acquisition of phonetic categories during development and perceptual learning in adulthood

Toscano, J. C. (2013, February). Invited paper presented at the Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Abstract: During language acquisition, one of the first tasks encountered by infants is determining which sounds indicate phonological distinctions in their language and which do not. This is a particularly challenging problem, since it requires unsupervised learning (i.e., speech sounds are unlabeled) and occurs incrementally (i.e., representations are updated continuously as new information is received)… Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Presentations

Reconsidering the role of temporal order in spoken word recognition

Toscano, J. C., Anderson, N. D., & McMurray, B. (2013). Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

Abstract: Models of spoken word recognition assume that words are represented as sequences of phonemes. We evaluated this assumption by examining phonemic anadromes, words that share the same phonemes but differ in their order (e.g., sub and bus)… Read more →

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Journal Articles