Using the visual world paradigm, the present study investigated on-line processing of fine-grained pitch information prior to lexical access in a tone language; specifically how lexical tone perception of Mandarin Tones 2 and 3 was influenced by the pitch height of the tone at onset, turning point, and offset. Native speakers of Mandarin listened to manipulated tone tokens and selected the corresponding word from four visually presented words (objects in Experiment 1 and characters in Experiment 2) while their eye movements were monitored. The results showed that 87 of ultimate tone judgments were made according to offset pitch height. Tokens with high offset pitch were identified as Tone 2, and low offset pitch as Tone 3. A low turning point pitch served as a pivotal cue for Tone 3, and prompted more eye fixations on Tone 3 items, until the offset pitch directed significantly more fixations to the final tone choice. The findings support the view that lexical tone perception is an incremental process, in which pitch height at critical points serves as an important cue.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics