Formant-Frequency Variation and Informational Masking of Speech by Extraneous Formants : Evidence Against Dynamic and Speech-Specific Acoustical Constraints


How speech is separated perceptually from other speech remains poorly understood. Recent research indicates that the ability of an extraneous formant to impair intelligibility depends on the variation of its frequency contour. This study explored the effects of manipulating the depth and pattern of that variation. Three formants (F1+F2+F3) constituting synthetic analogues of natural sentences were distributed across the 2 ears, together with a competitor for F2 (F2C) that listeners must reject to optimize recognition (left = F1+F2C; right = F2+F3). The frequency contours of F1 − F3 were each scaled to 50% of their natural depth, with little effect on intelligibility. Competitors were created either by inverting the frequency contour of F2 about its geometric mean (a plausibly speech-like pattern) or using a regular and arbitrary frequency contour (triangle wave, not plausibly speech-like) matched to the average rate and depth of variation for the inverted F2C. Adding a competitor typically reduced intelligibility; this reduction depended on the depth of F2C variation, being greatest for 100%-depth, intermediate for 50%-depth, and least for 0%-depth (constant) F2Cs. This suggests that competitor impact depends on overall depth of frequency variation, not depth relative to that for the target formants. The absence of tuning (i.e., no minimum in intelligibility for the 50% case) suggests that the ability to reject an extraneous formant does not depend on similarity in the depth of formant-frequency variation. Furthermore, triangle-wave competitors were as effective as their more speech-like counterparts, suggesting that the selection of formants from the ensemble also does not depend on speech-specific constraints.

Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: Funding body - EPSRC; grant number - EP/F016484/1. Currently First Posting status - upload PDF when changes to Journal Article status
Published Date: 2014
Authors: Roberts, Brian
Summers, Robert J.
Bailey, Peter J.


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