Talker discrimination across languages

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This study investigated the extent to which listeners are able to discriminate between bilingual talkers in three language pairs – English–German, English–Finnish and English–Mandarin. Native English listeners were presented with two sentences spoken by bilingual talkers and were asked to judge whether they thought the sentences were spoken by the same person. Equal amounts of cross-language and matched-language trials were presented. The results show that native English listeners are able to carry out this task well; achieving percent correct levels at well above chance for all three language pairs. Previous research has shown this for English–German, this research shows listeners also extend this to Finnish and Mandarin, languages that are quite distinct from English from a genetic and phonetic similarity perspective. However, listeners are significantly less accurate on cross-language talker trials (English–foreign) than on matched-language trials (English–English and foreign–foreign). Understanding listeners’ behaviour in cross-language talker discrimination using natural speech is the first step in developing principled evaluation techniques for synthesis systems in which the goal is for the synthesised voice to sound like the original speaker, for instance, in speech-to-speech translation systems, voice conversion and reconstruction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-790
Number of pages10
JournalSpeech Communication
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


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