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NOTIONS OF INTELLIGIBILITY

Definition

Intelligibility is the ability to understand speech under given conditions.

Of course, while there are situations where one wants good intelligibility (e.g., for the listener of a speaker in a conference hall or for a traveler attempting to listen to the PA system), there also are situations where one does not want to be disturbed by undue speech (e.g., in a open-plan office); there are even situations where one wants to make sure speech is not understood (e.g., in banks).

Several levels of understanding can be identified:

  • • Discretion is a situation where a sizable part of the speech signal is not understood by a listener, thus limiting the annoyance created by the speaker. This is the best one can achieve in an open space.
  • • Privacy is a situation where speech is not understood under normal circumstances. This implies partitions (open space is ruled out).
  • • Security is a situation where speech is not understood under any circumstance.
 
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