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Phonetic and Phono-Lexical Accuracy of Non-Native Tone Production by English-L1 and Mandarin-L1 Speakers.

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Laméris, Tim Joris  ORCID logo
Li, Katrina Kechun 
Post, Brechtje 


Lexical tones are known to be a challenging aspect of speech to acquire in a second language, but several factors are known to affect tone learning facility, such as L1 tonal status (whether a learner's L1 is tonal or not), tone type (the shape of the tones to be acquired), and individual extralinguistic factors (such as musicianship, pitch aptitude, and working memory). Crucially, most of our knowledge of the effect of these factors is based on evidence from perception. The production side of tone learning and the origins of individual variability in learning facility remain relatively understudied. To this end, this study investigated non-native tone production-both in terms of phonetic accuracy in a pseudoword imitation task and in terms of phono-lexical accuracy in a picture-naming task-by English-L1 and Mandarin-L1 speakers. Results show that L1 tonal status and tone type dynamically affected both imitation and picture-naming accuracy, as there were specific accuracy patterns for the English and Mandarin groups. Production accuracy was further facilitated by individual musical experience, working memory, and pitch aptitude. This study's findings add to the currently limited literature on how both language-specific and individual extralinguistic factors modulate non-native tone processing in the speaking modality.



L2, Production, individual variability, lexical tone, word learning

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Lang Speech

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SAGE Publications
ESRC (2117864)
This study was conducted as part of T.J. Laméris’ doctoral research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant 2117864) and a St John’s College Learning and Research Fund.