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Training American Listeners to Perceive Mandarin Tones: A Pilot Study

Wang, Yue; Jongman, Allard; Sereno, Joan A.

Auditory traInIng of nonnative speech contrasts is based on the assumption that the adult perceptual system can be modified.  Previous research has shown substantial improvement in the identification of nonnative segmental distinctions after a simple phonetic laboratory training procedure.

This study attempted to investigate whether such a procedure is applicable to the acquisition of nonnative suprasegmental contrasts, i.e., Mandarin tones. In four sessions during the course of a week, four American learners of Mandarin were trained to identify the four tones in natural words produced by both male and female native Mandarin talkers. The trainees' identification accuracy in the pretest and posttest were compared, showing an average 11% increase after training. This indicates that tone contrasts can be obtained and improved by training.

The results are discussed in terms of nonnative perceptual modification at the suprasegmental level, as well as some methodological implications for further studies.

This paper is copyrighted, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) - see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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