The judgment of annoyance of distorted speech differs radically for different language groups. The results show that those who do comprehend a spoken language, base their annoyance judgments on the informational content extracted while those who do not base it on the perceptual characteristics of meaningless sound (particularly loudness). A series of distorted German speech sounds were presented to two subject groups consisting of native Swedish and English speakers, and the results were compared with earlier results from groups of native German and Polish subjects. The 50 stimuli were generated from the very same speech signal distorted in two principle ways, either with repeated silent gaps or superimposed noise impulses. The perceived annoyance of the distorted speech was judged both by category scaling for all subject groups, and as a control for “ceiling” effects, also by magnitude estimation for the Swedish and the English subjects. There is a pronounced tendency for German subjects to judge the German speech distorted with silent gaps as more annoying than that distorted with superimposed noise impulses. In contrast, the Swedish, English, and Polish subjects judged the two German-speech distortions in reversed order with regard to annoyance. Thus for noncomprehending listeners, noise-distorted speech is more annoying but for comprehending listeners it is speech distorted by gaps. This means that impaired communication intrusiveness rather than loudness predominates in annoyance judgments from comprehending listeners.
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