The Effect of Linguistic Experience on the Perception of Pitch Contour
Master of Arts
Studies conducted in the area of tone perception suggest that experience with tonal features such as pitch height, direction, duration, and contour in the L1 of the listener affect the perception of such features. This study consists of a categorical perception experiment to investigate whether native experience with a tone language affects the perception of pitch contours. Subjects are divided into two groups: native Mandarin speakers and native English speakers. The central hypothesis of this study is that Mandarin speakers would perceive a continuum between the rising tone and the falling-rising tone categorically, while English speakers would make no such distinction. Results from a discrimination task indicate that neither the Mandarin group nor the English group perceived the tonal continuum categorically. This may be accounted for by the fact that differences between Tone 2 (rising) and Tone 3 (falling-rising) in Mandarin are perceptually ambiguous for both native and non-native listeners.