Phonetics at USC studies the articulatory, acoustic, and perceptual properties of speech sounds from a linguistic perspective, both informing and being informed by an understanding of linguistic representations, structures, and processes found in human language. We also have a special interest in speech production from a cognitive science perspective, which seeks to illuminate the connections between speech as human action and the percept of those actions via information in the acoustic signal. Our special areas of research focus on the coordination of speech movements and on dynamic imaging of speech production.


We explore how linguistic structure, including particularly prosodic structure, conditions the spatiotemporal realization of articulatory movement during speaking. This research program investigates the control and coordination of articulation and its relation to grammatical structure within a dynamical systems model of speech production. A specific current aim of work at USC is to understand how speakers modulate the spatiotemporal organization of articulatory gestures as a function of their phrasal positions and to undertake computational modeling of this organization. We also investigate the nature of the relation between articulation and acoustics, especially how the interaction between the two informs the basic units of phonological representation. A great deal of previous work on articulatory-relations has focused on static configurations. We are extending this work into dynamic patterns, and have started to show that various phonological asymmetries are intimately related to dynamical asymmetries in the aarticulatory-acoustic relation.

The USC Phonetics Laboratory is the home of experimental work in speech science within the Linguistics department and is directed by Professor Iskarous. The laboratory serves as a a teaching and research resource, as well as a social center for faculty and students interested in speech research. The laboratory includes a computing area and a physiology area, the latter equipped with a magnetometer for tracking articulatory movement of the tongue and lips during speech. It also has state-of-the-art acoustic, signal processing, and statistical analysis tools. The Phonetics Laboratory seeks to be a flexible resource that can accommodate a wide variety of research projects and work on spoken language in the USC Linguistics department is defined in an ongoing fashion by a group of energetic and interactive students, post-docs, and faculty who bring their experience, creativity, and interests to our many projects.

Byrd, Goldstein, Narayanan, and Iskarous pursue an active, federally-funded research program. Noteworthy accomplishments include:

  • Goldstein is principal investigator on another NIH R01 that investigates speech errors in several languages, and has been formulating a new theory of speech timing for explaining the results obtained.
  • Iskarous investigates the relation between speech production and speech perception, and how their interactions underlies various phonological symmetries.
  • Byrd is principal investigator on an NIH R01 on speech timing and prosody. This project includes collaboration with Narayanan (USC Electrical Engineering-Systems) and Research Assistant Professor Sungbok Lee.
  • Narayanan (PI) and Byrd (co-lead) lead another NIH R01 with Professor Krishna Nayak (EE), which supports research on real-time direct MRI imaging of speech ( This collaboration published in 2004 the first examples of direct real-time MRI imaging of the speaking vocal tract (
  • Other grants in the phonetics area include a MURI award from the Office of Naval Research (Narayanan, PI) and an NSF ITR Collaborative Research (UCLA-UCB-USC) (Narayanan, PI).
  • Byrd was awarded the prestigious R. Bruce Lindsay Award from the Acoustical Society of America. Narayanan was named a Fellow of the USC Center for Interdisciplinary Research (2003-2004), was selected for the Northrop Grumman High Visibility Research Award by USC Electrical Engineering (2005), and received a 2005 Best Paper Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society.
  • Chair: Andrew Simpson
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