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Poster D58, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Effect of Native Language on L2 Processing of Acoustic and Phonological Information in Mandarin Lexical Tones

Keke Yu1, Li Li1, Yuan Chen1, Yacong Zhou1, Ruiming Wang1, Yang Zhang2, Ping Li3;1South China Normal University, 2University of Minnesota, 3Pennsylvania State University

Previous studies of native speakers of tonal language have indicated the effects of two important types of information for lexical tone perception. One is acoustic information, which refers to the auditory physical features of lexical tones, such as fundamental frequency (F0). The other is phonological information, which can signify distinct word meanings with different tonal categories. For example, in Mandarin Chinese, syllable /ba/ means pulling out when it is pronounced with Mandarin tone-2, while means father when it is pronounced with Mandarin tone-4. But it remains unclear how second language (L2) learners would process these two types of information differently depending on whether their first language (L1) is a tonal language. The present study used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate this issue with a multi-feature oddball paradigm. As in previous work, the tonal stimuli included manipulations of phonological information (within- vs. across- category) and acoustic information (small vs. large differences in F0). A total of 36 adult L2 learners of Mandarin Chinese participated in the study; half of the participants’ L1 was a tonal language and the other half’s L1 was a non-tonal language. Mismatch negativity (MMN) responses showed distinct patterns for the two groups of L2 learners. For learners with tonal L1, acoustic information in lexical tones affected MMN amplitude whereas phonological information affected both MMN amplitude and peak latency. For learners with non-tonal L1, acoustic information did not affect MMN amplitude or peak latency whereas phonological information affected MMN peak latency. Between-group comparisons also confirmed significant differences in the MMN responses. Compared with learners with non-tonal L1, learners with tonal L1 showed earlier MMN peak latency in within-category tonal stimuli with large or small F0 difference, and smaller MMN amplitude in within-category tonal stimuli with small F0 difference. In a previous study with native L1 Mandarin speakers, we showed that acoustic information only affect MNN amplitude whereas phonological information affected both MMN amplitude and peak latency (Yu et al., 2014). These results indicate the effects of different representations of acoustic and phonological information on L2 processing of lexical tones, which is modulated by experience with the native language features. Learners with tonal L1 seem to perform more native-like in processing these two types of information in L2 lexical tones, which suggests that tonal L1 would promote learners to learn L2 lexical tones. In addition, these results also implied a potential dynamic process for L2 lexical tone learning.

Topic Area: Perception: Speech Perception and Audiovisual Integration

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