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J Acoust Soc Am. 2004 Jan;115(1):362-78.

Acoustic properties of naturally produced clear speech at normal speaking rates.

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Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Sentences spoken "clearly" are significantly more intelligible than those spoken "conversationally" for hearing-impaired listeners in a variety of backgrounds [Picheny et al., J. Speech Hear. Res. 28, 96-103 (1985); Uchanski et al., ibid. 39, 494-509 (1996); Payton et al., J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 95, 1581-1592 (1994)]. While producing clear speech, however, talkers often reduce their speaking rate significantly [Picheny et al., J. Speech Hear. Res. 29, 434-446 (1986); Uchanski et al., ibid. 39, 494-509 (1996)]. Yet speaking slowly is not solely responsible for the intelligibility benefit of clear speech (over conversational speech), since a recent study [Krause and Braida, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 112, 2165-2172 (2002)] showed that talkers can produce clear speech at normal rates with training. This finding suggests that clear speech has inherent acoustic properties, independent of rate, that contribute to improved intelligibility. Identifying these acoustic properties could lead to improved signal processing schemes for hearing aids. To gain insight into these acoustical properties, conversational and clear speech produced at normal speaking rates were analyzed at three levels of detail (global, phonological, and phonetic). Although results suggest that talkers may have employed different strategies to achieve clear speech at normal rates, two global-level properties were identified that appear likely to be linked to the improvements in intelligibility provided by clear/normal speech: increased energy in the 1000-3000-Hz range of long-term spectra and increased modulation depth of low frequency modulations of the intensity envelope. Other phonological and phonetic differences associated with clear/normal speech include changes in (1) frequency of stop burst releases, (2) VOT of word-initial voiceless stop consonants, and (3) short-term vowel spectra.

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