The development of language-specific and language-independent talker processing

Susannah V. Levi, Richard G. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In this study, the authors aimed to investigate how differences in language ability relate to differences in processing talker information in the native language and an unfamiliar language by comparing performance for different ages and for groups with impaired language. Method: Three groups of native English listeners with typical language development (TLD; ages 7-9, ages 10-12, adults) and 2 groups with specific language impairment (SLI; ages 7- 9, ages 10-12) participated in the study. Listeners heard pairs of words in both English and German (unfamiliar language) and were asked to determine whether the words were produced by the same or different talkers. Results: In English, talker discrimination improvedwith age. In German, performance improved with age for the school-age children but was worse for adult listeners. No differences were found between TLD and SLI children. Conclusion: These results show that as listeners' language skills develop, there is a trade-off between more general perceptual abilities useful for processing talker information in any language and those that are relevant to their everyday language experiences and, thus, tied to the phonology. The lack of differences between the children with and without language impairments suggests that general auditory processing may be intact in at least some children with SLI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-920
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Development
  • Specific language impairment
  • Speech perception
  • Talker processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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