Variability in Mandarin Tone Perception: a multidialectal approach

Dafydd Gibbon, Huangmei Liu


As a preliminary to a larger scale dialect study, variability in the perception of the four Mandarin lexical tones by native speakers with different regional dialect backgrounds was examined. In a novel sociophonetic survey of the ascription of pitch descriptors to tones, respondents rated the applicability of descriptors of pitch contour and height to recordings of tones on a 5-point Likert scale. Each submission also contained metadata which included self-reported experience with a regional variety of Chinese. The results showed differences in variability between pitch contour and pitch height descriptors, as well as some dependence between descriptor scores and regional dialect background, due to categorial tone perception. A number of statistical and visualisation techniques were applied, including a set of hierarchical classifiers with dendrogram visualisation for comparison with actual dialect relations. The results indicate that the sociophonetic survey method is fit for purpose but needs more data in a more extensive sociophonetic study.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-99

Cite as: Gibbon, D., Liu, H. (2018) Variability in Mandarin Tone Perception: a multidialectal approach. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 488-492, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-99.


@inproceedings{Gibbon2018,
  author={Dafydd Gibbon and Huangmei Liu},
  title={Variability in Mandarin Tone Perception: a multidialectal approach},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={488--492},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-99},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-99}
}