Processing lexical tones is known to be difficult for non-native speakers from various language backgrounds. Perceptual accuracy of six Mandarin tone contrasts (T1–T2, T1–T3, T1–T4, T2–T3, T2–T4, T3–T4) of two groups of Japanese listeners (learners and non-learners) and a control group of Mandarin listeners were compared in Mandarin learning experience, phonetic context, and speaker gender. Both Japanese groups perceived T2–T3 poorly, but the learner group was significantly better than the non-learner group for this and the T1–T2 contrasts. The learners' advantage was observed across various phonetic contexts (initial consonants and tone bearing vowels), suggesting that their tone perception was more stable and resistant to speaker variation. In regard to speaker gender, both Japanese groups perceived the T2–T3 contrast more poorly, and T1–T2 and T1–T4 contrasts more successfully, when produced by female speakers.
- lexical tones