Sentence recognition in native- and foreign-language multi-talker background noise

Kristin J. Van Engen*, Ann R. Bradlow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Studies of speech perception in various types of background noise have shown that noise with linguistic content affects listeners differently than nonlinguistic noise [e.g., Simpson, S. A., and Cooke, M. (2005). "Consonant identification in N-talker babble is a nonmonotonic function of N," J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 118, 2775-2778; Sperry, J. L., Wiley, T. L., and Chial, M. R. (1997). "Word recognition performance in various background competitors," J. Am. Acad. Audiol. 8, 71-80] but few studies of multi-talker babble have employed background babble in languages other than the target speech language. To determine whether the adverse effect of background speech is due to the linguistic content or to the acoustic characteristics of the speech masker, this study assessed speech-in-noise recognition when the language of the background noise was either the same or different from the language of the target speech. Replicating previous findings, results showed poorer English sentence recognition by native English listeners in six-talker babble than in two-talker babble, regardless of the language of the babble. In addition, our results showed that in two-talker babble, native English listeners were more adversely affected by English babble than by Mandarin Chinese babble. These findings demonstrate informational masking on sentence-in-noise recognition in the form of "linguistic interference." Whether this interference is at the lexical, sublexical, and/or prosodic levels of linguistic structure and whether it is modulated by the phonetic similarity between the target and noise languages remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-526
Number of pages8
Journaljournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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