The influence of preceding speech and nonspeech contexts on Mandarin tone identification

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Original languageEnglish
Article number101154
Journal / PublicationJournal of Phonetics
Online published26 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


This study examines the effect of preceding tones on tone perception within Mandarin disyllabic utterances and the underlying mechanism that causes such an effect. Listeners were presented with a series of tone targets varying perceptually from Mandarin Tone 3 to Tone 4 following Tone 1, Tone 2, or Tone 4. The results showed that the targets were more likely to be categorized as Tone 3 following the context tones with high offset f0 (Tone 1 and Tone 2) than following those with low offset f0 (Tone 4). The effect of preceding tones compensated for the acoustic consequence of coarticulation because the context tone with high offset f0 produced Tone 4-like Tone 3 variant in production, but tended to elicit Tone 3 identification of this variant in perception. Moreover, we also observed an effect of nonspeech contexts that preserved only the f0 contours of speech contexts. However, the effect of nonspeech contexts was significantly smaller than that of speech contexts, and the difference was not caused by focal attention. Our findings lend evidence to a general auditory mechanism and point to future work clarifying the factors that modulate the magnitude of perceptual context effect.

Research Area(s)

  • Focal attention, General auditory mechanism, Mandarin tone perception, Perceptual compensation for the acoustic consequence of coarticulation, Speech-specific mechanism