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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2019 Feb 26;62(2):423-433. doi: 10.1044/2018_JSLHR-H-18-0273.

Sentence Context Facilitation for Children's and Adults' Recognition of Native- and Nonnative-Accented Speech.

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Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Department of Speech and Hearing Science, The Ohio State University, Columbus.


Purpose Supportive semantic and syntactic information can increase children's and adults' word recognition accuracy in adverse listening conditions. However, there are inconsistent findings regarding how a talker's accent or dialect modulates these context effects. Here, we compare children's and adults' abilities to capitalize on sentence context to overcome misleading acoustic-phonetic cues in nonnative-accented speech. Method Monolingual American English-speaking 5- to 7-year-old children ( n = 90) and 18- to 35-year-old adults ( n = 30) were presented with full sentences or the excised final word from each of the sentences and repeated what they heard. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions: native-accented (Midland American English) or nonnative-accented (Spanish- and Japanese-accented English) speech. Participants also completed the NIH Toolbox Picture Vocabulary Test. Results Children and adults benefited from sentence context for both native- and nonnative-accent talkers, but the benefit was greater for nonnative than native talkers. Furthermore, adults showed a greater context benefit than children for nonnative talkers, but the 2 age groups showed a similar benefit for native talkers. Children's age and vocabulary scores both correlated with context benefit. Conclusions The cognitive-linguistic development that occurs between the early school-age years and adulthood may increase listeners' abilities to capitalize on top-down cues for lexical identification with nonnative-accented speech. These results have implications for the perception of speech with source degradation, including speech sound disorders, hearing loss, or signal processing that does not faithfully represent the original signal.

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