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Talker familiarity and spoken word recognition in school-age children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2014

New York University
Address for correspondence: Susannah Levi, New York University, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, 665 Broadway, 9th floor, New York, NY 10012.


Research with adults has shown that spoken language processing is improved when listeners are familiar with talkers' voices, known as the familiar talker advantage. The current study explored whether this ability extends to school-age children, who are still acquiring language. Children were familiarized with the voices of three German–English bilingual talkers and were tested on the speech of six bilinguals, three of whom were familiar. Results revealed that children do show improved spoken language processing when they are familiar with the talkers, but this improvement was limited to highly familiar lexical items. This restriction of the familiar talker advantage is attributed to differences in the representation of highly familiar and less familiar lexical items. In addition, children did not exhibit accent-general learning; despite having been exposed to German-accented talkers during training, there was no improvement for novel German-accented talkers.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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This work was supported by a grant from the NIH-NIDCD (1R03DC009851-01A2). I would like to thank Gabrielle Alfano, Josh Barocas, Jennifer Bruno, Stephanie Lee, Emma Mack, Alexandra Muratore, Sydney Robert, and Margo Waltz for help with data collection, Adam Buchwald and Richard Schwartz for comments on previous versions of this paper, and the children and families for their participation.


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