Previous studies on Mandarin tone production indicate that there is no agreement on which tones are most difficult for L2 learners. Much of previous research on L2 learning of Mandarin tones has focused on monosyllables. In modern Mandarin, however, it is disyllabic words that dominate the vocabulary. This research investigates the production of Mandarin disyllabic tones by Japanese learners. In the current study, 25 Japanese learners of Mandarin were requested to produce 80 Mandarin disyllabic words with all tonal combinations (except for the neutral tone). The overall results showed a hierarchy of difficulty: Tone 3 > Tone 2 > Tone 1 = Tone 4. Most errors in the first syllable were found for Tone 2 and Tone 3 when followed by Tone 1 or Tone 4 (both start with a high pitch). In the second syllable, most errors were found for Tone 3 (misproduced as Tone 2). The findings are discussed in terms of the phonetic nature of Mandarin lexical tones and the interference from Japanese phonology.
Bibliographic reference. Tu, Jung-Yueh / Hsiung, Yuwen / Wu, Min-Da / Sung, Yao-Ting (2014): "Error patterns of Mandarin disyllabic tones by Japanese learners", In INTERSPEECH-2014, 2558-2562.