Recent research suggests that the ability of an extraneous formant to impair intelligibility depends on the variation of its frequency contour. This idea was explored using a method that ensures interference occurs only through informational masking. Three-formant analogues of sentences were synthesized using a monotonous periodic source (F0 = 140 Hz). Target formants were presented monaurally; the target ear was assigned randomly on each trial. A competitor for F2 (F2C) was presented contralaterally; listeners must reject F2C to optimize recognition. In experiment 1, F2Cs with various frequency and amplitude contours were used. F2Cs with time-varying frequency contours were effective competitors; constant-frequency F2Cs had far less impact. Amplitude contour also influenced competitor impact; this effect was additive. In experiment 2, F2Cs were created by inverting the F2 frequency contour about its geometric mean and varying its depth of variation over a range from constant to twice the original (0–200%). The impact on intelligibility was least for constant F2Cs and increased up to ~100% depth, but little thereafter. The effect of an extraneous formant depends primarily on its frequency contour; interference increases as the depth of variation is increased until the range exceeds that typical for F2 in natural speech.
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Funding: ESRC (ES/K004905/1).
To access the research data underlying this publication, see http://dx.doi.org/10.17036/Roberts_20150427_A01