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Lecture | research presentation

Non-Native Tone Categorization and Word Learning Across a Spectrum of L1 Tonal Statuses: Evidence from Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, and Thai

Date
Tuesday 4 October 2022
Time
Location
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 2
2311 BZ Leiden
Room
004

Abstract: Some individuals learn lexical tones in a non-native language more easily than others do. This variability has been partially attributed to the role that pitch plays in a learner’s L1 to signal lexical meaning (L1 tonal status). However, whether a higher L1 tonal status in and of itself facilitates non-native tone processing is unclear because previous cross-linguistic studies did not strictly consider the additional effects of factors such as L1-specific sensitivity to certain target tone types, individual musical experience, or working memory. In this talk, I will present findings from a study that controlled for these factors to explicitly examine whether different degrees of L1 tonal status —low (Dutch), intermediate (Swedish, Japanese), and high (Thai)— affect the learning of tonal pseudowords. I found that, instead of L1 tonal status, pre-lexical tone perception (pitch aptitude) was the strongest predictor of tone word learning, although the strength of the link between pre-lexical and lexical processing may be modulated by L1 tonal status. I will argue that these findings suggest that there may be qualitative, but not quantitative differences across speakers of different L1 tonal statuses in non-native speech acquisition. I will further highlight the importance of accounting for both linguistic and extralinguistic factors to explain why some individuals learn non-native speech more easily than others do. 

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