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  Obituary | Ralph N. Ohde | 1944-2018
Ralph N. Ohde, Professor Emeritus of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, Fellow of the Acoustical Society of Amer- ica, beloved teacher, and a lead- ing authority on acoustic pho- netics of adult and child speech, passed away on January 8, 2018, in Nashville. He had struggled
with Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
Ralph was born and raised in northern Wisconsin and was, inevitably, a lifetime Green Bay Packers fan. In 1966, he grad- uated from Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he excelled in theatrical productions. He earned a master’s degree in speech language pathology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, in 1968, and worked in the Keno- sha public schools for three years. In 1972, Ralph returned to academia, earning a PhD at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1978, that was followed by postdoctoral work at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, through 1981. Character- istically, he remained friends and collaborated with his doc- toral and postdoctoral mentors, Donald Sharf and Kenneth Stevens, respectively. Ralph moved to the Bill Wilkerson Hearing & Speech Center at Vanderbilt University in 1981, where he advanced through the academic ranks and retired as professor in 2013.
Ralph’s initial collaboration with his mentor Donald Sharf was fruitful, resulting in 13 publications and a book, Pho- netic Analysis of Normal and Abnormal Speech (Ohde and Sharf, 1992). Initially, the papers focused on acoustic ad- aptation of feature detectors, an idea that has been given new import recently by models of speech recognition em- ploying deep learning. Later papers emphasized the rela- tionship between speech production and perception in children with articulation difficulties, suggesting a quasi independence of the processes (Ohde and Sharf, 1988). Ralph’s sustained focus on acoustic phonetics resulted in a number of seminal articles showing the nuanced develop- mental differences between children’s and adults’ percep- tion of speech sounds. Ralph and his collaborators showed that these effects were not sufficiently captured by dynamic specification or target normalization theories (e.g., Ohde and German, 2011).
In collaboration with Edward Conture and Courtney Byrd, Ralph’s later work studied further the relationship between speech production and perception. These authors showed how children who stutter may actually have a developmental delay in shifting from holistic to incremental processing in phonological encoding (e.g., Byrd et al., 2007).
Ralph was widely recognized for his teaching and mentor- ing excellence. Motivated by ideas and theory development, Ralph challenged and engaged his doctoral students to think critically and discuss openly. Throughout his career, Ralph at- tracted young minds with research interests in hearing loss, stuttering, apraxia of speech, and human development. His contributions to their scientific development and careers were instrumental.
Ralph is survived by his wife of 47 years, Kathleen Ohde. Their interests together included antique collecting, hiking, and running.
Ralph’s gentle manner and contagious laugh endeared him to everyone but especially to the generations of students he trained on both the clinical and research sides of speech sci- ence. He will be sorely missed.
Selected References by Ralph N. Ohde
Byrd, C., Conture, E., and Ohde, R. (2007). Phonological priming in young children who stutter: Holistic versus incremental processing. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 16, 43-53.
Ohde, R., and German, S. (2011). Formant onsets and formant transitions as developmental cues to vowel perception. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 130, 1628-1642.
Ohde, R. N., and Sharf, D. (1988). Perceptual categorization and consisten- cy of synthesized /r-w/ continua by adults, normal children and /r/-mis- articulating children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 31, 556-568.
Ohde, R. N., and Sharf, D. (1992). Phonetic Analysis of Normal and Abnor- mal Speech. Macmillan, New York.
Written by:
Daniel H. Ashmead,
Email: D. Wesley Grantham,
Email: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee
Katarina L. Haley, Email: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Mark S. Hedrick, Email: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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