Language and Speech Laboratory

Effect of masker type on native and non-native consonant perception in noise

Mª Luisa García Lecumberri, Martin Cooke.

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America      volume:119 (4):2445-2454.

Spoken communication in a non-native language is especially difficult in the presence of noise. This study compared English and Spanish listeners’ perceptions of English intervocalic consonants as a function of masker type. Three maskers (stationary noise, multitalker babble, and competing speech) provided varying amounts of energetic and informational masking. Competing English and Spanish speech maskers were used to examine the effect of masker language. Non-native performance fell short of that of native listeners in quiet, but a larger performance differential was found for all masking conditions. Both groups performed better in competing speech than in stationary noise, and both suffered most in babble. Since babble is a less effective energetic masker than stationary noise, these results suggest that non-native listeners are more adversely affected by both energetic and informational masking.Astrong correlation was found between non-native performance in quiet and degree of deterioration in noise, suggesting that non-native phonetic category learning can be fragile. A small effect of language background was evident: English listeners performed better when the competing speech was Spanish.