One way or another : evidence for perceptual asymmetry in pre-attentive learning of non-native contrasts
Ong, Jia Hoong
Date of Issue2018
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Research investigating listeners’ neural sensitivity to speech sounds has largely focused on segmental features. We examined Australian English listeners’ perception and learning of a supra-segmental feature, pitch direction in a non-native tonal contrast, using a passive oddball paradigm and electroencephalography. The stimuli were two contours generated from naturally produced high-level and high-falling tones in Mandarin Chinese, differing only in pitch direction (Liu and Kager, 2014). While both contours had similar pitch onsets, the pitch offset of the falling contour was lower than that of the level one. The contrast was presented in two orientations (standard and deviant reversed) and tested in two blocks with the order of block presentation counterbalanced. Mismatch negativity (MMN) responses showed that listeners discriminated the non-native tonal contrast only in the second block, reflecting indications of learning through exposure during the first block. In addition, listeners showed a later MMN peak for their second block of test relative to listeners who did the same block first, suggesting linguistic (as opposed to acoustic) processing or a misapplication of perceptual strategies from the first to the second block. The results also showed a perceptual asymmetry for change in pitch direction: listeners who encountered a falling tone deviant in the first block had larger frontal MMN amplitudes than listeners who encountered a level tone deviant in the first block. The implications of our findings for second language speech and the developmental trajectory for tone perception are discussed.
Frontiers in Psychology
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