Processing of Lexical Tones in the Recognition of Mandarin-Chinese Words by Native Chinese Listeners and Second-Language Learners of Chinese
As a tone language, Mandarin-Chinese (henceforth, Chinese) uses lexical tones, that is, pitch movement, to contrast word meanings. This feature could pose word-recognition difficulties for adult second-language learners whose native language (e.g., English) is not a tone language. This seminar reports a comparative study examining how native Chinese listeners and proficient English-speaking learners of Chinese use tonal information to recognize spoken words as the speech signal unfolds in time. Two visual-world eye-tracking experiments were conducted to investigate whether native listeners and learners differ in their use of tonal information as follows: (1) their different sensitivities to the early pitch height of the tone; (2) their different sensitivities to fine-grained variability in this early pitch difference. The results of participants’ eye-fixations showed that native listeners and learners differed in the time course of their use of tonal information, with native listeners showing an earlier and greater sensitivity to fine-grained early tonal information than learners. The implications of this research for learning of Chinese tones will be discussed.
Dr. QIN Zhen, Quentin, completed his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Kansas, and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Research Center for Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach (psycholinguistics and experimental phonetics) to second language learning, his research focuses on how Chinese tones are perceived and processed by native speakers and adult second-language learners. He has published in a variety of journals including Language Learning, Applied Psycholinguistics, Journal of Phonetics, Language and Speech, and PLOS ONE.