Effect of tonal native language on voice fundamental frequency responses to pitch feedback perturbations during sustained vocalizations

Hanjun Liu*, Emily Q. Wang, Zhaocong Chen, Peng Liu, Chuck Larson, Dongfeng Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


The purpose of this cross-language study was to examine whether the online control of voice fundamental frequency (F0) during vowel phonation is influenced by language experience. Native speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin, both tonal languages spoken in China, participated in the experiments. Subjects were asked to vocalize a vowel sound /u/ at their comfortable habitual F 0, during which their voice pitch was unexpectedly shifted (±50, ±100, ±200, or ±500 cents, 200 ms duration) and fed back instantaneously to them over headphones. The results showed that Cantonese speakers produced significantly smaller responses than Mandarin speakers when the stimulus magnitude varied from 200 to 500 cents. Further, response magnitudes decreased along with the increase in stimulus magnitude in Cantonese speakers, which was not observed in Mandarin speakers. These findings suggest that online control of voice F0 during vocalization is sensitive to language experience. Further, systematic modulations of vocal responses across stimulus magnitude were observed in Cantonese speakers but not in Mandarin speakers, which indicates that this highly automatic feedback mechanism is sensitive to the specific tonal system of each language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3739-3746
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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