Evaluating dictation task measures for the study of speech perception

Felker, E. R., Ernestus, M., & Broersma, M. (2019). Evaluating dictation task measures for the study of speech perception. In S. Calhoun, P. Escudero, M. Tabain, & P. Warren (Eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2019) (pp. 383-387). Canberra, Australia: Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association Inc.
This paper shows that the dictation task, a well- known testing instrument in language education, has untapped potential as a research tool for studying speech perception. We describe how transcriptions can be scored on measures of lexical, orthographic, phonological, and semantic similarity to target phrases to provide comprehensive information about accuracy at different processing levels. The former three measures are automatically extractable, increasing objectivity, and the middle two are gradient, providing finer-grained information than traditionally used. We evaluate the measures in an English dictation task featuring phonetically reduced continuous speech. Whereas the lexical and orthographic measures emphasize listeners’ word identification difficulties, the phonological measure demonstrates that listeners can often still recover phonological features, and the semantic measure captures their ability to get the gist of the utterances. Correlational analyses and a discussion of practical and theoretical considerations show that combining multiple measures improves the dictation task’s utility as a research tool.
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