Repository logo

The combined effects of L1-specific and extralinguistic factors on individual performance in a tone categorization and word identification task by English-L1 and Mandarin-L1 speakers

Published version

Repository DOI

Change log


Laméris, Tim Joris 
Post, Brechtje 


jats:p Adult second language learners often show considerable individual variability in the ease with which lexical tones are learned. It is known that factors pertaining to a learner’s first language (L1; such as L1 tonal status or L1 tone type) as well as extralinguistic factors (such as musical experience and working memory) modulate tone learning facility. However, how such L1-specific and extralinguistic factors affect performance together in dynamic ways is less well understood. Therefore, to unpack the potential interactions between these factors for individual learners, we assessed the combined effects of L1 tonal status, L1 tone type, and musical experience and working memory on second language (L2) tone perception and word learning in a tonal pseudolanguage by English-L1 and Mandarin-L1 adult learners, by using a pre-lexical tone categorization task and a lexical word identification task. We found that L2 tone perception and word learning were primarily facilitated by extralinguistic factors, but that the degree to which learners rely on these factors is modulated by their L1 tonal status, as for instance musical experience facilitated perception and word learning for English, but not for Mandarin participants. We also found clear effects of L1 tone type, as Mandarin participants tended to struggle with categorizing and lexically processing level tone contrasts, which do not occur in Mandarin. </jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: St John’s College, University of Cambridge


extralinguistic factors, individual variability, lexical tone, L2 speech, musical experience, perception, word learning, working memory

Journal Title

Second Language Research

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



SAGE Publications
ESRC (2117864)