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Percept Psychophys. 1997 Jul;59(5):675-92.

The encoding of rate and talker information during phonetic perception.

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Psychology Department, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.


The acoustic structure of the speech signal is extremely variable due to a variety of contextual factors, including talker characteristics and speaking rate. To account for the listener's ability to adjust to this variability, speech researchers have posited the existence of talker and rate normalization processes. The current study examined how the perceptual system encoded information about talker and speaking rate during phonetic perception. Experiments 1-3 examined this question, using a speeded classification paradigm developed by Garner (1974). The results of these experiments indicated that decisions about phonemic identity were affected by both talker and rate information: irrelevant variation in either dimension interfered with phonemic classification. While rate classification was also affected by phoneme variation, talker classification was not. Experiment 4 examined the impact of talker and rate variation on the voicing boundary under different blocking conditions. The results indicated that talker characteristics influenced the voicing boundary when talker variation occurred within a block of trials only under certain conditions. Rate variation, however, influenced the voicing boundary regardless of whether or not there was rate variation within a block of trials. The findings from these experiments indicate that phoneme and the rate information are encoded in an integral manner during speech perception, while talker characteristics are encoded separately.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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