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Effects of cross-language voice training on speech perception: whose familiar voices are more intelligible?

Research paper by Susannah V SV Levi, Stephen J SJ Winters, David B DB Pisoni

Indexed on: 10 Jan '12Published on: 10 Jan '12Published in: The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America



Abstract

Previous research has shown that familiarity with a talker's voice can improve linguistic processing (herein, "Familiar Talker Advantage"), but this benefit is constrained by the context in which the talker's voice is familiar. The current study examined how familiarity affects intelligibility by manipulating the type of talker information available to listeners. One group of listeners learned to identify bilingual talkers' voices from English words, where they learned language-specific talker information. A second group of listeners learned the same talkers from German words, and thus only learned language-independent talker information. After voice training, both groups of listeners completed a word recognition task with English words produced by both familiar and unfamiliar talkers. Results revealed that English-trained listeners perceived more phonemes correct for familiar than unfamiliar talkers, while German-trained listeners did not show improved intelligibility for familiar talkers. The absence of a processing advantage in speech intelligibility for the German-trained listeners demonstrates limitations on the Familiar Talker Advantage, which crucially depends on the language context in which the talkers' voices were learned; knowledge of how a talker produces linguistically relevant contrasts in a particular language is necessary to increase speech intelligibility for words produced by familiar talkers.