Short-term perceptual tuning to talker characteristics

When a listener encounters an unfamiliar talker, the ensuing perceptual accommodation to the unique characteristics of the talker has two aspects: (1) the listener assesses acoustic characteristics of speech to resolve the properties of the talker's sound production; and, (2) the listener appraises the talker's idiolect, subphonemic phonetic properties that compose the finest grain of linguistic production. A new study controlled a listener's exposure to determine whether the perceptual benefit rests on specific segmental experience. Effects of sentence exposure were measured using a spoken word identification task of Easy words (likely words drawn from sparse neighbourhoods of less likely words) and Hard words (less likely words drawn from dense neighbourhoods of more likely words). Recognition of words was facilitated by exposure to voiced obstruent consonants. Overall, these findings indicate that talker-specific perceptual tuning might depend more on exposure to phonemically marked consonants than to exposure distributed across the phoneme inventory.