Influence of L1 Background on Categorical Perception of Mandarin Tones by Russian and Vietnamese Listeners


  •  Qiongqiong Zou    

Abstract

This study investigated the influence of L1 background on categorical perception of lexical tones by three language groups, namely native Mandarin, Russian and Vietnamese listeners. Tone identification and discrimination scores of two tone continua (T1-T2 and T1-T4) were measured for each participant. Results showed that the two tone language groups, i.e., Mandarin and Vietnamese listeners, perceived both tone continua categorically whereas the non-tone language group, i.e., Russian listeners, did not. More specifically, while the Russian group exhibited significantly broader identification boundaries and performed near chance level in discrimination tasks, the Mandarin and Vietnamese groups presented sharp slopes in identification curves and corresponding discrimination peaks at the cross-boundary positions. Moreover, Mandarin and Vietnamese listeners showed slightly different discrimination curves, which could be attributed to the effect of their different tone inventories. The current findings suggest that native tone language background, to some extent, can facilitate non-native tone perception.



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