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Peter F Assmann
Professor-Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Office MailstopRoom No.: GR4118 
Email Address    Primary Phone Number 972-883-2435    URL UTD Webpage   URL Peter Assmann's Home Page    Media Contact
Keywords Speech perception, Speech communication   
 Professional Preparation
 Ph.D.Speech Production and PerceptionUniversity of Alberta1985
 M.Sc.Speech Production and PerceptionUniversity of Alberta1979
 B.A.PsychologyUniversity of Waterloo1976
Collapse Section Expand Section Research and Expertise
Speech perception research at The University of Texas at Dallas

Listeners can extract information from speech produced under extreme conditions: for example, when the speaking rate is 400 words per minute; in high levels of background noise; and when the identity of the speaker is unknown. Current research in our laboratory considers how human listeners achieve this by looking at auditory, perceptual, and cognitive processes that intervene between the production of speech and its recognition. We are developing and testing models of the auditory and phonetic analysis of speech to describe how listeners extract information from speech when competing sound sources are present. When the competing sound source is another voice, listeners face the difficult problem of separating signals that are similar in their acoustic structure. This problem has serious implications for theoretical models of speech perception, and it has important practical consequences for two areas of applied speech research. First, because competing voices present difficulties for individuals suffering from sensorineural hearing impairments, research on the perceptual processes involved in speech-source segregation may provide insights into the problems faced by these listeners, and may suggest forms of signal processing to enhance the intelligibility of speech signals corrupted by background noise. Second, because competing voices severely degrade the performance of automatic speech recognizers, it is likely that a better understanding of human performance will lead to improvements in the design of robust and noise-resistant devices for automatic speech recognition.

Research Interests

My research investigates the perceptual strategies used by listeners to recognize speech. Speech communication has an extraordinary resistance to distortion: intelligibility is preserved when a substantial portion of the spectrum is eliminated by filtering, when large segments of the waveform are deleted or replaced by silence, or when the signal is embedded in background noise. Research in my lab has centered on a series of experimental investigations of the distortions introduced by competing voices, narrow bandpass filtering, spectral flattening, local time reversal, and frequency scaling. We are evaluating theoretical and computational models of speech perception to account for the extraordinary resilience of human speech communication to such distortions. Our studies of frequency-scaled speech have revealed the operation of perceptual mechanisms that help listeners cope with the enormous variability in the acoustic patterns of speech across talkers. Much of this variability is a direct consequence of size differences in the larynx and vocal tract as a function of age and sex.

Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, we are studying the detailed pattern of these changes in a database of speech recordings from adults and children ranging in age from 5 to 18 years. These recordings provide materials for constructing stimuli in listening experiments, acoustic parameters for realistic voice synthesis and voice conversion, and normative data for studies of speech perception and production in adults and children. This project is providing valuable information on the nature of speech development and the acoustic scaling transformations that take place as children grow into adults. Acoustic measurements from the recorded samples are incorporated into statistical pattern recognition models to predict the responses of listeners to natural and synthesized speech. These models provide a basis for testing and refining hypotheses about the perceptual transformations that listeners apply to cope with acoustic variability, and the processes by which they extract phonetic and indexical information in speech perception.

Collapse Section Expand Section Publications
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  YearPublication  Type
Sullivan. J, Thibodeau, L., and Assmann, P.F. (2013). Auditory training in interrupted noise improves speech recognition in noise for children with hearing impairment. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 133: 495-501.
Hubbard D. and Assmann P.F. (2013). Perceptual adaptation to gender and expressive properties in speech: The role of fundamental frequency. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 133: 2367-2376.
Morrison, G.S., & Assmann, P.F. (Eds.) (2013). Vowel inherent spectral change. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag.
Assmann P.F., Nearey T.M. and Bharadwaj, S.V. (2012). Developmental patterns in children's speech: time-varying spectral change in vowels. In Vowel inherent spectral change. Edited by Geoffrey S. Morrison and Peter F. Assmann. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg.
Assmann P.F., Nearey T.M. (2008). Identification of frequency-shifted vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 124(5), 3203-3212.
Category: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Peer reviewed
Collapse Section Expand Section Appointments
DurationRankDepartment / SchoolCollege / OfficeUniversity / Company
1995-presentAssociate ProfessorDepartment of Linguistics University of Alberta
1989-1995Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Linguistics, University of Alberta
1985-1988Speech and Hearing ScientistDepartments of Psychology and Philosophy University of Waterloo
presentResearch ScientistSchool of Behavioral and Brain Sciences The University of Texas at Dallas
2008-2007Perception of frequency-shifted speechNational Science Foundation Grant$223,418Previous
2002-2003Perceptual adaptations to frequency-shifted speechHuman Development Faculty Research Initiative$1,500Previous
2000-2003A pattern recognition approach to phonetic and phonological effects in speech perceptionSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Previous
2001-2002Modeling the perception of speech under adverse listening conditionsCallier Excellence in Education Grant$12,500Previous
2000-2001Perception of time-varying spectral cues in speechHuman Development Faculty Research Initiative$1,500Previous
1999-2000Speech perception under adverse listening conditionsALCATEL research grant$25,000Previous
1998-1999Representation of formant peaks in the auditory analysis of speechHuman Development Faculty Research Initiative$1,500Previous
1998-1999Upgrade for the Human Development Computational Systems laboratories: Sun Unix workstation networkUTD PUF award$44,000Previous
1996-1997Development of a Language-based Computer Interface for PreschoolersTexas Instruments Research Initiative$50,000Previous
1995-1996Natural Language as an Approach to Software GenerationTexas Instruments Research Initiative$25,000Previous
1991-1996Perception of Speech in the Presence of Competing VoicesNational Institutes of Health / National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders FIRST Independent Research Support And Transition Award$473,473Previous
1994-1995Acoustic, kinematic and perceptual studies of children's speechTexas Advanced Research Program Grant$125,408Previous
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 Additional Information
  • Association for Research in Otolaryngology
  • Acoustical Society of America
  • International Phonetic Association
  • International Speech Communication Association (ISCA)

  • Member, Speech Technical Committee, Acoustical Society of America 1993-1999; ex officio: 2002-2005.
  • Representative for the North Texas Chapter of the Acoustical Society of America, 1999-2003.
  • Technical Program Committee Representative for the 128th Acoustical Society Meeting, Dec. 1994.

  • Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
  • Journal of Phonetics
  • Journal of Speech, Hearing and Language Research
  • Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
  • IEEE Transactions on Speech and Audio Processing
  • Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
  • Perception and Psychophysics
  • Language and Speech
  • Phonetica
  • Ear and Hearing
  • Music Perception
  • Hearing Research
  • Emotion and Motivation
  • National Science Foundation Research Grants
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Research Grants
  • U.K. Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) Research Grant

  • Speech Sciences AUD 6306
  • Speech Perception HCS 6367
  • Speech Perception Laboratory HCS 7372/ HCS 7367
  • Speech and Hearing Science HCS 6360
  • Hearing HSC 6365
  • Psychology of Hearing COMD 7348
  • Computational Systems ACN 7327
  • Historical Perspectives on Psychology PSY 3360
  • Minds and Machines Since 1600 CGS 3325
  • Quantitative Methods for Psychology PSY 3392
  • Strategies of Research PSY 3390
  • Experimental Projects PSY 3393
  • Animal Communication PSY 3364
  • Speech and Hearing Science HCS 6360
  • Cognition/Neuroscience Seminar: Auditory Scene Analysis HCS 7372
  • Cognition/Neuroscience Seminar: Animal Communication HCS 7372

  • Committee on Undergraduate Requirements
  • Committee on Educational Policy
  • Faculty Committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Institutional Biosafety Committee
  • Academic Senate
  • Committee on Student Life
  • Committee on Student Housing
  • Committee on Faculty Standing and Conduct
  • Human Development Committee on Teaching Effectiveness
  • Human Development Doctoral Steering Committee
  • Human Development Curriculum Committees in Psychology and Cognitive Science
  • Human Development Curriculum Committees in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience.
  • Human Development Colloquium Series organizer, 1998/1999 (with Susan Jerger)
  • Human Development Computer Usage for Technology and Education
  • Human Development Graduate Research / Planning Committee
  • Human Development Ad Hoc Committee for Periodic Performance Evaluation
  • Human Development Search Committees in Audiology, Speech Disorders

  • Associate Editor for Speech Perception. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (2002-present), Callier Excellence Scholar. 2001-2002.
  • Special Faculty Research Assignment. Multimedia program for speech perception. Spring, 2002.
  • National Institutes of Health Reviewer, SBIR Special Emphasis Panel, Biobehavioral and Social Sciences IRG, Washington, Nov. 4, 1998.


Peter Assmann received a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Waterloo in 1976, followed by an MSc (1979) and PhD (1985) in Linguistics from the University of Alberta. He subsequently completed 3 years of postdoctoral research in speech and hearing science at the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham from 1985 to 1988. He joined the faculty at UT Dallas in 1989. He served as Associate Editor for the Journal of the Acoustical Society (Speech Communication) from 2002-2005 and is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America.

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