Talker identification is not improved by lexical access in the absence of familiar phonology
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Listeners identify talkers more accurately when they are familiar with both the sounds and words of the language being spoken. It is unknown whether lexical information alone can facilitate talker identification in the absence of familiar phonology. To dissociate the roles of familiar words and phonology, we developed English-Mandarin “hybrid” sentences, spoken in Mandarin, which can be convincingly coerced to sound like English when presented with corresponding subtitles (e.g., “wei4 gou3 chi1 kao3 li2 zhi1” becomes “we go to college”). Across two experiments, listeners learned to identify talkers in three conditions: listeners' native language (English), an unfamiliar, foreign language (Mandarin), and a foreign language paired with subtitles that primed native language lexical access (subtitled Mandarin). In Experiment 1 listeners underwent a single session of talker identity training; in Experiment 2 listeners completed three days of training. Talkers in a foreign language were identified no better when native language lexical representations were primed (subtitled Mandarin) than from foreign-language speech alone, regardless of whether they had received one or three days of talker identity training. These results suggest that the facilitatory effect of lexical access on talker identification depends on the availability of familiar phonological forms.