Acoustic Source Characteristics, Across-Formant Integration, and Speech Intelligibility Under Competitive Conditions

Article English OPEN
Roberts, Brian ; Summers, Robert J. ; Bailey, Peter J. (2015)
  • Publisher: American Psychological Association
  • Journal: Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, volume 41, issue 3, pages 680-691 (issn: 0096-1523, eissn: 1939-1277)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC4445382, doi: 10.1037/xhp0000038
  • Subject: Reports | source characteristics | formant integration | auditory grouping | speech intelligibility | informational masking

An important aspect of speech perception is the ability to group or select formants using cues in the acoustic source characteristics-for example, fundamental frequency (F0) differences between formants promote their segregation. This study explored the role of more radical differences in source characteristics. Three-formant (F1+F2+F3) synthetic speech analogues were derived from natural sentences. In Experiment 1, F1+F3 were generated by passing a harmonic glottal source (F0 = 140 Hz) through second-order resonators (H1+H3); in Experiment 2, F1+F3 were tonal (sine-wave) analogues (T1+T3). F2 could take either form (H2 or T2). In some conditions, the target formants were presented alone, either monaurally or dichotically (left ear = F1+F3; right ear = F2). In others, they were accompanied by a competitor for F2 (F1+F2C+F3; F2), which listeners must reject to optimize recognition. Competitors (H2C or T2C) were created using the time-reversed frequency and amplitude contours of F2. Dichotic presentation of F2 and F2C ensured that the impact of the competitor arose primarily through informational masking. In the absence of F2C, the effect of a source mismatch between F1+F3 and F2 was relatively modest. When F2C was present, intelligibility was lowest when F2 was tonal and F2C was harmonic, irrespective of which type matched F1+F3. This finding suggests that source type and context, rather than similarity, govern the phonetic contribution of a formant. It is proposed that wideband harmonic analogues are more effective informational maskers than narrowband tonal analogues, and so become dominant in across-frequency integration of phonetic information when placed in competition.
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