Cues for Lexical Tone Perception in Children: Acoustic Correlates and Phonetic Context Effects Purpose The authors investigated the effects of acoustic cues (i.e., pitch height, pitch contour, and pitch onset and offset) and phonetic context cues (i.e., syllable onsets and rimes) on lexical tone perception in Cantonese-speaking children. Method Eight minimum pairs of tonal contrasts were presented in either an identical phonetic ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2014
Cues for Lexical Tone Perception in Children: Acoustic Correlates and Phonetic Context Effects
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Xiuli Tong
    University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
  • Catherine McBride
    Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Denis Burnham
    MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Xiuli Tong: xltong@hku.hk
  • Editor: Jody Kreiman
    Editor: Jody Kreiman×
  • Associate Editor: Alex Francis
    Associate Editor: Alex Francis×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2014
Cues for Lexical Tone Perception in Children: Acoustic Correlates and Phonetic Context Effects
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2014, Vol. 57, 1589-1605. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-S-13-0145
History: Received June 5, 2013 , Revised December 3, 2013 , Accepted March 24, 2014
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2014, Vol. 57, 1589-1605. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-S-13-0145
History: Received June 5, 2013; Revised December 3, 2013; Accepted March 24, 2014
Web of Science® Times Cited: 11

Purpose The authors investigated the effects of acoustic cues (i.e., pitch height, pitch contour, and pitch onset and offset) and phonetic context cues (i.e., syllable onsets and rimes) on lexical tone perception in Cantonese-speaking children.

Method Eight minimum pairs of tonal contrasts were presented in either an identical phonetic context or in different phonetic contexts (different syllable onsets and rimes). Children were instructed to engage in tone identification and tone discrimination.

Results Cantonese children attended to pitch onset in perceiving similarly contoured tones and attended to pitch contour in perceiving different-contoured tones. There was a decreasing level of tone discrimination accuracy, with tone perception being easiest for same rime–different syllable onset, more difficult for different rime–same syllable onset, and most difficult for different rime–different syllable onset phonetic contexts. This pattern was observed in tonal contrasts in which the member tones had the same contour but not in ones in which the member tones had different contours.

Conclusion These findings suggest that in addition to pitch contour, the pitch onset is another important acoustic cue for tone perception. The relative importance of acoustic cues for tone perception is phonetically context dependent. These findings are discussed with reference to a newly modified TRACE model for tone languages (TTRACE).

Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank Stephen Man Kit Lee for his drawing of the TTRACE model and his comments and discussion. We would also like to thank former research assistant Keith Leung for his help and Dr. Jack Gandour for his comments on an earlier version of this article. This research was supported, in part, by Seed Grant 201202159006 from the University of Hong Kong to Dr. Xiuli Tong.
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