Lexical effects in talker identification
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Adult listeners more accurately identify talkers speaking a known language than a foreign language (Thompson, 1987), a phenomenon known as the language-familiarity effect (Perrachione & Wong, 2007). Two experiments explored how knowledge of a language facilitates talker identification. In Experiment 1, participants identified talkers in three conditions: (a) a foreign-language speech condition featuring unfamiliar sound patterns and no known words; (b) a nonsense speech condition featuring all the familiar sound patterns of their native language, such as familiar phonemes, prosody, and syllable structure, but no actual words; and (c) a native-language condition with all the familiar components of a language, including words. In Experiment 2, participants again identified speakers in familiar and unfamiliar languages. In both languages, listeners identified speakers in a condition in which no word was ever repeated, and in a condition featuring repeated words. The results suggest that access to familiar, meaningful spoken words confers an advantage beyond access to familiar sounds, syllables, and prosody, particularly when words are repeated. Together, Experiments 1 and 2 support integrated models of voice and language processing systems, and indicate that access to meaningful words is a crucial component of the language-familiarity effect in talker identification.
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