Melissa Baese-Berk’s Talk

Date: 06/12/2021

Prof. Melissa and her colleagues and students are constantly productive in the research of speech processing as well as accent perception and adaptation. In her talk, she walked us through their new work on the adaptation to unfamiliar speech and the perception of non-native speech (see Cheng et al., 2021). 

The main examining issues in their studies include:

  1. The difficulties in communication brought about by linguistics properties of non-native speech, language background of talkers and listeners, and certain cognitive factors (McLaughlin, Baese-Berk, Bent, Borrie & Van Engen 2018)
  2. The conditions under which accent general adaptation might occur (Afghani, Baese-Berk & Waddell, under review at the time when the talk happened)

The main results found by them are:

  1. Listeners may make the most of different resources to facilitate their speech processing; some cognitive factors, like vocabulary and working memory, correlate with listening challenges; the noises from the environment can degrade rhythm perception (McLaughlin et al., 2018).
  2. Incentives may be an answer for a better performance in speech processing, and listeners incentivised can start processing better and learn more quickly than those who are not (Afghani, Baese-Berk, & Waddell, under review at the time of the talk).

Speech perception is more difficult when it is:

  • Dysarthric speech
  • Speech-in-noise
  • Time-compressed speech
  • Synthetic speech

However, practice listening in these conditions may improve speech processing for listeners.

The issues to be looked at next:

  1. The role of memory in comprehension
  2. The similarities / difference between the adaptation to a talker and to an accent
  3. The interaction between adaptation and physical and linguistics context

Reflections from our Research Group:

  • This is a very relevant topic to what is currently being discussed in our research group around accent and social justice. Our group is hosting an event in Spring 2022 which will discuss some of the topics addressed. 
  • It directed us to other literature surrounding the topic.
  • A good way to network with others interested in the topic.
  • I found it very interesting that incentivising participants can make a significant difference in how they process speech.

Melissa’s Twitter: @uospplab 

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