Volume 115, Issue 4, April 2004
Index of content:
- SPEECH PERCEPTION 
The role of temporal and dynamic signal components in the perception of syllable-final stop voicing by children and adults115(2004); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.1651192View Description Hide Description
Adults whose native languages permit syllable-final obstruents, and show a vocalic length distinction based on the voicing of those obstruents, consistently weight vocalic duration strongly in their perceptual decisions about the voicing of final stops, at least in laboratory studies using synthetic speech. Children, on the other hand, generally disregard such signal properties in their speech perception, favoring formant transitions instead. These age-related differences led to the prediction that children learning English as a native language would weight vocalic duration less than adults, but weight syllable-final transitions more in decisions of final-consonant voicing. This study tested that prediction. In the first experiment, adults and children (eight and six years olds) labeled synthetic and natural CVC words with voiced or voiceless stops in final C position. Predictions were strictly supported for synthetic stimuli only. With natural stimuli it appeared that adults and children alike weighted syllable-offset transitions strongly in their voicing decisions. The predicted age-related difference in the weighting of vocalic duration was seen for these natural stimuli almost exclusively when syllable-final transitions signaled a voiced final stop. A second experiment with adults and children (seven and five years old) replicated these results for natural stimuli with four new sets of natural stimuli. It was concluded that acoustic properties other than vocalic duration might play more important roles in voicing decisions for final stops than commonly asserted, sometimes even taking precedence over vocalic duration.
115(2004); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.1687832View Description Hide Description
Current theories of cross-language speech perception claim that patterns of perceptual assimilation of non-native segments to native categories predict relative difficulties in learning to perceive (and produce) non-native phones. Cross-language spectral similarity of North German (NG) and American English (AE) vowels produced in isolated hVC(a) (di)syllables (study 1) and in hVC syllables embedded in a short sentence (study 2) was determined by discriminant analyses, to examine the extent to which acoustic similarity was predictive of perceptual similarity patterns. The perceptual assimilation of NG vowels to native AE vowel categories by AE listeners with no German language experience was then assessed directly. Both studies showed that acoustic similarity of AE and NG vowels did not always predict perceptual similarity, especially for “new” NG front rounded vowels and for “similar” NG front and back mid and mid-low vowels. Both acoustic and perceptual similarity of NG and AE vowels varied as a function of the prosodic context, although vowel duration differences did not affect perceptual assimilation patterns. When duration and spectral similarity were in conflict, AE listeners assimilated vowels on the basis of spectral similarity in both prosodic contexts.
115(2004); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.1645249View Description Hide Description
The present experiments examine the effects of listener age and hearing sensitivity on the ability to understand temporally altered speech in quiet when the proportion of a sentence processed by time compression is varied. Additional conditions in noise investigate whether or not listeners are affected by alterations in the presentation rate of background speech babble, relative to the presentation rate of the target speech signal. Younger and older adults with normal hearing and with mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing losses served as listeners. Speech stimuli included sentences, syntactic sets, and random-order words. Presentation rate was altered via time compression applied to the entire stimulus or to selected phrases within the stimulus. Older listeners performed more poorly than younger listeners in most conditions involving time compression, and their performance decreased progressively with the proportion of the stimulus that was processed with time compression. Older listeners also performed more poorly than younger listeners in all noise conditions, but both age groups demonstrated better performance in conditions incorporating a mismatch in the presentation rate between target signal and background babble compared to conditions with matched rates. The age effects in quiet are consistent with the generalized slowing hypothesis of aging. Performance patterns in noise tentatively support the notion that altered rates of speech signal and background babble may provide a cue to enhance auditory figure–ground perception by both younger and older listeners.