Effects of Semantic Context and Fundamental Frequency Contours on Mandarin Speech Recognition by Second Language Learners
It has been reported that listeners can benefit from a release in masking when the masker speech is spoken in a language that differs from the target speech compared to when the target and masker speech are spoken in the same language [Freyman, R. L. et al. (1999). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 106, 3578-3588; Van Engen, K., and Bradlow, A. (2007), J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 121, 519-526]. It is unclear whether listeners benefit from this release in masking due to the lack of linguistic interference of the masker speech, from acoustic and phonetic differences between the target and masker languages, or a combination of these differences. In the following series of experiments, listeners' sentence recognition was evaluated using speech and noise maskers that varied in the amount of linguistic content, including native-English, Mandarin-accented English, and Mandarin speech. Results from three experiments indicated that the majority of differences observed between the linguistic maskers could be explained by spectral differences between the masker conditions. However, when the recognition task increased in difficulty, i.e., at a more challenging signal-to-noise ratio, a greater decrease in performance was observed for the maskers with more linguistically relevant information than what could be explained by spectral differences alone.