Assessing the Importance of Lexical Tone Contour to Sentence Perception in Mandarin-Speaking Children With Normal Hearing Purpose The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of lexical tone contour and age on sentence perception in quiet and in noise conditions in Mandarin-speaking children ages 7 to 11 years with normal hearing. Method Test materials were synthesized Mandarin sentences, each word with ... Research Article
Research Article  |   July 12, 2017
Assessing the Importance of Lexical Tone Contour to Sentence Perception in Mandarin-Speaking Children With Normal Hearing
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Shufeng Zhu
    Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China
    Department of Electronic Engineering, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • Lena L. N. Wong
    Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam
  • Bin Wang
    Department of Electronic Engineering, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • Fei Chen
    Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China
  • 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 Fei Chen: fchen@sustc.edu.cn
  • Editor: Frederick Gallun
    Editor: Frederick Gallun×
  • Associate Editor: Mitchell Sommers
    Associate Editor: Mitchell Sommers×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   July 12, 2017
Assessing the Importance of Lexical Tone Contour to Sentence Perception in Mandarin-Speaking Children With Normal Hearing
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, July 2017, Vol. 60, 2116-2123. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-16-0272
History: Received June 28, 2016 , Revised January 31, 2017 , Accepted March 11, 2017
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, July 2017, Vol. 60, 2116-2123. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-16-0272
History: Received June 28, 2016; Revised January 31, 2017; Accepted March 11, 2017

Purpose The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of lexical tone contour and age on sentence perception in quiet and in noise conditions in Mandarin-speaking children ages 7 to 11 years with normal hearing.

Method Test materials were synthesized Mandarin sentences, each word with a manipulated lexical contour, that is, normal contour, flat contour, or a tone contour randomly selected from the four Mandarin lexical tone contours. A convenience sample of 75 Mandarin-speaking participants with normal hearing, ages 7, 9, and 11 years (25 participants in each age group), was selected. Participants were asked to repeat the synthesized speech in quiet and in speech spectrum–shaped noise at 0 dB signal-to-noise ratio.

Results In quiet, sentence recognition by the 11-year-old children was similar to that of adults, and misrepresented lexical tone contours did not have a detrimental effect. However, the performance of children ages 9 and 7 years was significantly poorer. The performance of all three age groups, especially the younger children, declined significantly in noise.

Conclusions The present research suggests that lexical tone contour plays an important role in Mandarin sentence recognition, and misrepresented tone contours result in greater difficulty in sentence recognition in younger children. These results imply that maturation and/or language use experience play a role in the processing of tone contours for Mandarin speech understanding, particularly in noise.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 61571213), the Basic Research Foundation of Shenzhen (Grant JCYJ20160429191402782), and Sonova AG. We thank all the children and the two raters who participated in the study. We are grateful to the DeTianShiYan Primary School in Hangzhou for their assistance during data collection and Mitchell Sommers and two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable feedback that significantly improved the presentation of this article.
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