The role of orthography in L2 segment and tone encoding by learners at different proficiency levels

Yen-Chen Hao, Chung-Lin Yang


The present study compared the effect of two orthographic inputs on English speakers’ phonological encoding of Mandarin words: the Chinese Romanization Pinyin and Chinese characters. English speakers at three proficiency levels participated in a word-learning experiment. During the learning phase, half of the participants saw Pinyin of the target words (PY group), while the other half saw characters (CH group). After learning, the participants judged the matching of sound and meaning of 128 pairs, half of which were complete matches, while the other half mismatched the target either in segment or tone. The results showed that the Advanced learners in the CH group were more accurate than their counterparts in the PY group in rejecting tonal mismatches. In contrast, the Naïve participants in the PY group were more accurate in accepting the matches than those in the CH group. Moreover, participants in the PY group were overall insensitive to tonal mismatches regardless of their proficiency. In the CH group, on the other hand, the Advanced learners scored significantly higher with the tonal-mismatched items than the less experienced participants. This study suggests that characters are more effective than Pinyin in helping Advanced L2 learners encode the tones of new Mandarin words.


 DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2018-50

Cite as: Hao, Y., Yang, C. (2018) The role of orthography in L2 segment and tone encoding by learners at different proficiency levels. Proc. TAL2018, Sixth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages, 247-251, DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2018-50.


@inproceedings{Hao2018,
  author={ Yen-Chen Hao and Chung-Lin Yang},
  title={ The role of orthography in L2 segment and tone encoding by learners at different proficiency levels},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. TAL2018, Sixth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages},
  pages={247--251},
  doi={10.21437/TAL.2018-50},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/TAL.2018-50}
}