The effect of overall pitch height on Mandarin tone identification

Jing Shen, Diana Deutsch, Jinghong Le

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The primary goal of the present study was to systematically examine the effect of overall pitch height on native speakers' identification of four Mandarin tones, while controlling for other acoustic cues. A secondary goal was to evaluate whether musical training influences tone identification performance in native Mandarin speakers. In a tone identification task, Mandarin syllables were presented in all tones, both at their original pitch height and also as transposed to four different pitch levels. The task was to listen to each token and to judge rapidly whether or not it corresponded to the word that had the original tone. It was found that the subjects performed worse in making judgments on transposed tones compared with those at the original pitch level. Both measures of accuracy and reaction time were affected by the degree of pitch transposition. These findings suggest tone language speakers have implicit knowledge of where the pitch height of a tone was located within a talker's pitch range. Unlike previous data from non-tone language speakers, effect of musical training was not found for these tone language speakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number060013
JournalProceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
StatePublished - 2011
Event162nd Meeting Acoustical Society of America 2011 - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Oct 31 2011Nov 4 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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