This study aims to investigate native speakers' perception of prosodic variation of Chinese utterances. It is known that timing is crucial for intelligibility in English, Japanese and other accent languages [9, 13 ,14 ,16]. A tone language, Chinese relies heavily on the use of pitch more than do other languages for the purpose of distinguishing the meaning of the segmentally same words as well as expressing intonation. It is expected that pitch is the most important prosodic factor for the naturalness judgment of Chinese. However, no empirical data have been presented to support this view to date. In general, listeners are more sensitive to the deviation of timing than pitch. Pitch change also triggers slight change in duration. Whether the significance of timing for naturalness is universal across languages and applies to tone languages as well, relative importance of timing and pitch in Chinese was investigated using L2 Chinese speech. The results indicated that Chinese native listeners do notice the deviation of timing and regard it as accented speech.
Bibliographic reference. Tsurutani, Chiharu / Luo, Dean (2013): "Naturalness judgement of L2 Mandarin Chinese — does timing matter?", In INTERSPEECH-2013, 239-242.