Effects of talker variability on perceptual learning of dialects

Cynthia G. Clopper, David B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Scopus citations


Two groups of listeners learned to categorize a set of unfamiliar talkers by dialect region using sentences selected from the TIMIT speech corpus. One group learned to categorize a single talker from each of six American English dialect regions. A second group learned to categorize three talkers from each dialect region. Following training, both groups were asked to categorize new talkers using the same categorization task. While the single-talker group was more accurate during initial training and test phases when familiar talkers produced the sentences, the three-talker group performed better on the generalization task with unfamiliar talkers. This cross-over effect in dialect categorization suggests that while talker variation during initial perceptual learning leads to more difficult learning of specific exemplars, exposure to intertalker variability facilitates robust perceptual learning and promotes better categorization performance of unfamiliar talkers. The results suggest that listeners encode and use acoustic-phonetic variability in speech to reliably perceive the dialect of unfamiliar talkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-239
Number of pages33
JournalLanguage and speech
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Dialect categorization
  • Indexical properties
  • Perceptual learning
  • Speech perception
  • Talker variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Language and Linguistics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of talker variability on perceptual learning of dialects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this