Cross-language Perception of Mandarin Lexical Tones by Mongolian-speaking Bilinguals in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China

Kimiko Tsukada, Yu Rong


Mandarin is a representative tonal language with four contrastive tone categories (Tone 1 (T1): high level (ā), Tone 2 (T2): high rising (á), Tone 3 (T3): dipping (ǎ), Tone 4 (T4): high falling (à)). Learning Mandarin tones is known to be difficult for speakers from diverse linguistic backgrounds. The purpose of this research was to examine how native Mongolian-speaking bilinguals perceive Mandarin lexical tones. The 24 (17 females, 7 males) participants studied Mandarin for 15 years on average in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. A discrimination experiment was conducted to assess Mongolian bilinguals' perception of six tone pairs (T1-T2, T1-T3, T1-T4, T2-T3, T2-T4, T3-T4). The Mongolian group was less accurate than the control group of ten native Mandarin listeners for all six pairs and the between-group difference was particularly large for T2-T3. However, large individual variation was observed and some Mongolian bilinguals perceived Mandarin tones as accurately as native Mandarin listeners, suggesting that native-like tone perception is attainable in subsequently acquired languages.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2018-48

Cite as: Tsukada, K., Rong, Y. (2018) Cross-language Perception of Mandarin Lexical Tones by Mongolian-speaking Bilinguals in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Proc. Interspeech 2018, 2539-2543, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2018-48.


@inproceedings{Tsukada2018,
  author={Kimiko Tsukada and Yu Rong},
  title={Cross-language Perception of Mandarin Lexical Tones by Mongolian-speaking Bilinguals in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2018},
  pages={2539--2543},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2018-48},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2018-48}
}