LOT Winterschool 2017, Nijmegen

 Speech perception in adverse listening conditions

Dates: 16-20 January, 2017
Location: E 3.15 (Thursday: E 2.56)
Time: 11.15 – 13.15
Lecturer: Odette Scharenborg
Level: First year Research Master Linguistics (RM1)

Course description

Ever increasing numbers of people travel, live, or work in a non-native language environment, thus communicating in a non-native language. Listening in a non-native language is harder than in one’s native language, and even harder in the presence of background noise, even if a non-native language is mastered to a near-native level. In this course, we will investigate the question why non-native word recognition in noise is so much harder than in a native language. The focus will be on the cognitive processes underlying speech perception. Moreover, we will highlight different methodologies to investigate speech perception.

After completion of the course, students will have acquired a good understanding of the cognitive processes underlying speech processing and the effect of adverse listening conditions on these. Moreover, students will also have gained experience in different aspects of experimental research (literature search, formulating a falsifiable research question, designing an experiment to address the research question, and writing a research report).

Slides of

Day-to-day program

Monday: What is speech?

McQueen, J. M. (2005). Speech perception. In K. Lamberts, & R. Goldstone (Eds.), The Handbook of Cognition (pp. 255-275). London: Sage Publications. Download (Section 1, p.255-257 only)

Tuesday: How do we recognise speech?

McQueen, J. M. (2005). Speech perception. In K. Lamberts, & R. Goldstone (Eds.), The Handbook of Cognition (pp. 255-275). London: Sage Publications.  Download (Rest of the paper)

Wednesday: How do we investigate speech perception?

McGuire, G. (2010). A brief primer on experimental designs for speech perception research. Download

Thursday: The effect of adverse listening conditions on speech processing

Garcia-Lecumberri, M.L., Cooke, M., Cutler, A. (2010). Non-native speech perception in adverse conditions: A review. Speech Communication, 52(11-12), 864-886. Download

Friday: The flexibility of the perceptual system

Part 1 of Friday’s lecture: Drozdova, P., van Hout, R., Scharenborg, O. (2016). Lexically-guided perceptual learning in non-native listening. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19(5), 914–920. Download

Part 2 of Friday’s lecture: Discussion of handed in experimental designs for Assignment 2 (see below).


In order to investigate how human listeners perceive and recognise speech, typically psycholinguistic experiments are carried out. These experiments are designed such that they answer a research question and test hypotheses the experimenter might have regarding human speech processing. In three assignments, you will go through the steps of setting up a research project or experiment, but without having to actually implement and run the experiment.

Assignment 1

Formulate a falsifiable research question and hypotheses based on relevant literature. The topic of the research question should be related to speech comprehension, ideally speech comprehension in adverse conditions.

A short report of no more than 1 A4 (including references) should be handed in on Monday 16 January, 2017, on paper. The report should include

  • a falsifiable research question
  • hypotheses (of all aspects of the research question if there are more than one)
  • preceded by a short literature review which embeds the research question in existing literature.

Assignment 2

Design an experimental set-up which allows you to test the research question defined in Assignment 1. A short report of no more than 1 A4 (including references) should be handed in on Thursday 19 January, 2017, on paper. The report should describe the experimental set-up including details on

  • the (type of) participants
  • task
  • procedure
  • type of stimuli, including one or two examples
  • (listening) conditions
  • the type of statistical analysis that would be needed to analyse the data that would come out of the experiment, including the dependent and independent variables,
  • other important aspects of the experimental design.

Assignment 3

Describe possible outcomes of the experiments (related to your hypotheses) and discuss these in the light of (existing literature on) speech comprehension.

The final report of no more than 3 A4 contains a revised version of the reports written for Assignments 1 + 2 (revised on the basis of feedback obtained during the course of the week from the lecturer, other students, the course materials) and the discussion to be written for Assignment 3.