The perception of Mandarin tones by learners from heritage and non-heritage backgrounds

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

Abstract

Two groups of non-native adult learners of Mandarin in Australia were compared in their ability to perceive monosyllabic Mandarin words contrasting in lexical tones. They differed in their linguistic experience (non-heritage (n=7), heritage (n=8)). A group of seven native Mandarin speakers was included as controls. All non-native learners used English as their primary language of communication. However, the heritage learners were able to communicate in Cantonese as well as English. The question of interest was whether heritage learners' knowledge of contrastive tone in Cantonese might give them an advantage over Englishspeaking learners in perceiving tone contrasts in Mandarin. In general, there were more similarities than differences between the two groups in their response patterns. Of the six tone contrasts examined (T1-T2, T1-T3, T1-T4, T2-T3, T2-T4, T3-T4), the two groups of learners clearly diverged on T1-T2 and T1-T4 contrasts in opposite directions. The heritage learners were more accurate on T1-T2 and less accurate on T1-T4 than the non-heritage learners who speak Australian English as their first language. Thus, we conclude that simply having an exposure to and functional knowledge of another tonal language since early childhood does not guarantee accurate perception of Mandarin tones compared to adult learners without prior experience with tonal languages.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Chinese Spoken Language Processing, ISCSLP 2014
EditorsMinghiu Dong, Jianhua Tao, Haizhou Li, Thomas Fang Zheng, Yanfeng Lu
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Pages260-264
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781479942206
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2014
Event9th International Symposium on Chinese Spoken Language Processing, ISCSLP 2014 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 12 Sep 201414 Sep 2014

Other

Other9th International Symposium on Chinese Spoken Language Processing, ISCSLP 2014
CountrySingapore
CitySingapore
Period12/09/1414/09/14

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Tsukada, K., Xu, H. L., & Xu Rattanasone, N. (2014). The perception of Mandarin tones by learners from heritage and non-heritage backgrounds. In M. Dong, J. Tao, H. Li, T. F. Zheng, & Y. Lu (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Chinese Spoken Language Processing, ISCSLP 2014 (pp. 260-264). [6936587] Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). https://doi.org/10.1109/ISCSLP.2014.6936587