Journal of the Acoustical Society of America volume:123:414-427.
Studies comparing native and non-native listener performance on speech perception tasks can
distinguish the roles of general auditory and language-independent processes from those involving
prior knowledge of a given language. Previous experiments have demonstrated a performance
disparity between native and non-native listeners on tasks involving sentence processing in noise.
However, the effects of energetic and informational masking have not been explicitly distinguished.
Here, English and Spanish listener groups identified keywords in English sentences in quiet and
masked by either stationary noise or a competing utterance, conditions known to produce
predominantly energetic and informational masking, respectively. In the stationary noise conditions,
non-native talkers suffered more from increasing levels of noise for two of the three keywords
scored. In the competing talker condition, the performance differential also increased with masker
level. A computer model of energetic masking in the competing talker condition ruled out the
possibility that the native advantage could be explained wholly by energetic masking. Both groups
drew equal benefit from differences in mean F0 between target and masker, suggesting that
processes which make use of this cue do not engage language-specific knowledge.