Published December 12, 2000 | Version v1
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Hemispheric processing of Mandarin tones by Chinese and American listeners


  • 1. Cornell University


The hemispheric processing of Mandarin tones by native and nonnative listeners was
examined using the dichotic listening paradigm. Twenty American listeners with no tone
language background as well as twenty Chinese listeners were asked to identify the
dichotically presented tone pairs by indicating which tone they heard in each ear.

  • For the Chinese listeners, 57% of the total errors were due to the left ear, indicating a significant right ear advantage (REA).
  • However, the American listeners revealed no significant ear preference, with 48% of the errors attributable to the left ear.

These results indicated that Mandarin tones are predominantly processed in the left hemisphere by native speakers, suggesting that left hemisphere lateralization of tone may be more language-universal than was previously recognized.


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