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Using Leap Motion to investigate the emergence of structure in speech and language


Little,  Hannah
Vrije Universiteit Brussel;
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Language Evolution and Interaction Scholars of Nijmegen, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Eryilmaz, K., & Little, H. (2017). Using Leap Motion to investigate the emergence of structure in speech and language. Behavior Research Methods, 49(5), 1748-1768. doi:10.3758/s13428-016-0818-x.

In evolutionary linguistics, experiments using artificial signal spaces are being used to investigate the emergence of speech structure. These signal spaces need to be continuous, non-discretised spaces from which discrete units and patterns can emerge. They need to be dissimilar from - but comparable with - the vocal-tract, in order to minimise interference from pre-existing linguistic knowledge, while informing us about language. This is a hard balance to strike. This article outlines a new approach which uses the Leap Motion, an infra-red controller which can convert manual movement in 3d space into sound. The signal space using this approach is more flexible than signal spaces in previous attempts. Further, output data using this approach is simpler to arrange and analyse. The experimental interface was built using free, and mostly open source libraries in Python. We provide our source code for other researchers as open source.