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Quantifying the intelligibility of speech in noise for non-native listeners

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Author: Wijngaarden, S.J. van · Steeneken, H.J.M. · Houtgast, T.
Type:article
Date:2002
Institution: TNO Technische Menskunde
Source:Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 4, 111, 1906-1916
Identifier: 10377
doi: doi:10.1121/1.1456928
Keywords: Acoustics and Audiology · Acoustic noise · Audition · Formal languages · Linguistics · Linguistic entropy · Speech · acoustics · adult · article · controlled study · entropy · language · language ability · noise · perception · population · prediction · priority journal · psychometry · speech discrimination · speech intelligibility · Adolescent · Multilingualism · Perceptual Masking · Phonetics · Psycholinguistics · Sensory Thresholds · Speech Acoustics · Speech Intelligibility · Speech Perception · Speech Reception Threshold Test

Abstract

When listening to languages learned at a later age, speech intelligibility is generally lower than when listening to one's native language. The main purpose of this study is to quantify speech intelligibility in noise for specific populations of non-native listeners, only broadly addressing the underlying perceptual and linguistic processing. An easy method is sought to extend these quantitative findings to other listener populations. Dutch subjects listening to Germans and English speech, ranging from reasonable to excellent proficiency in these languages, were found to require a 1-7 dB better speech-to-noise ratio to obtain 50% sentence intelligibility than native listeners. Also, the psychometric function for sentence recognition in noise was found to be shallower for non-native than for native listeners (worst-case slope around the 50% point of 7.5%/dB, compared to 12.6%/dB for native listeners). Differences between native and non-native speech intelligibility are largely predicted by linguistic entropy estimates as derived from a letter guessing task. Less effective use of context effects (especially semantic redundancy) explains the reduced speech intelligibility for non-native listeners. While measuring speech intelligibility for many different populations of listeners (languages, linguistic experience) may be prohibitively time consuming, obtaining predictions of non-native intelligibility from linguistic entropy may help to extend the results of this study to other listener populations. © 2002 Acoustical Society of America.