Creel, S. C., & Bregman, M. R. (2011). How Talker Identity Relates to Language Processing. Language and Linguistics Compass, 5(5), 190-204. (Download)
Speech carries both linguistic content – phonemes, words, sentences – and talker information, sometimes called ‘indexical information’. While talker variability materially affects language processing, it has historically been regarded as a curiosity rather than a central influence, possibly because talker variability does not fit with a conception of speech sounds as abstract categories. Despite this relegation to the periphery, a long history of research suggests that phoneme perception and talker perception are interrelated. The current review argues that speech perception itself may arise from phylogenetically earlier vocal recognition, and discusses evidence that many cues to talker identity are also cues to speech-sound identity. Rather than brushing talker differences aside, explicit examination of the role of talker variability and talker identity in language processing can illuminate our understanding of the origins of spoken language, and the nature of language representations themselves.