Changes in Early L2 Cue-Weighting of Non-Native Speech: Evidence from Learners of Mandarin Chinese

Seth Wiener


This study examined how cue-weighting of a non-native speech cue changes during early adult second language (L2) acquisition. Ten native English speaking learners of Mandarin Chinese performed a speeded AX-discrimination task during months 1, 2, and 3 of a first-year Chinese course. Results were compared to ten native Mandarin speakers. Learners’ reaction time and d-prime results became more native-like after two months of classroom study but plateaued thereafter. Multidimensional scaling results showed a similar shift to more native-like cue-weighting as learners attended more to pitch direction and less to pitch height. Despite the improvements, learners’ month 3 configuration of cue-weighting differed from that of native speakers; learners appeared to weight pitch end points rather than overall pitch directions. These results suggest that learners’ warping of the weights of dimensions underlying the perceptual space changes rapidly during early acquisition and can plateau like other measures of L2 acquisition. Previous perceptual learning studies may have only captured initial L2 perception gains, not the learning plateau that often follows. New methods of perceptual learning, especially for tonal languages, are needed to advance learners off the plateau.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-289

Cite as: Wiener, S. (2017) Changes in Early L2 Cue-Weighting of Non-Native Speech: Evidence from Learners of Mandarin Chinese. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 1765-1769, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-289.


@inproceedings{Wiener2017,
  author={Seth Wiener},
  title={Changes in Early L2 Cue-Weighting of Non-Native Speech: Evidence from Learners of Mandarin Chinese},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={1765--1769},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-289},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-289}
}