The 4th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages

Nijmegen, The Netherlands
May 13-16, 2014

The Discrimination of Tonal Contrasts by Monolingual and Bilingual Adults

Liquan Liu, René Kager

Utrecht institute of Linguistics OTS, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

In previous TAL [1], we have demonstrated non-tone-learning monolingual and bilingual infants' tone perception in the first year of life. This talk presents a follow-up study on the tone discrimination patterns in the adulthood, specifically in Chinese (tone-language), Dutch (non-tone-language), and Dutch simultaneous bilingual adults (non-tone-languages). Interestingly, adults from all language conditions perform similarly in AX and AXB discrimination tasks for two tonal contrasts. A slight advantage can be observed in the sequence of Chinese adults > Dutch simultaneous bilingual adults > Dutch adults when perceiving a contracted (more difficult) tonal contrast in an upward order. The influence of bilingualism on tone perception as well as acoustic salience is discussed linking our previous finding that bilingual infants present earlier sensitivity rebound in discriminating tonal contrast [2].


  1. Liu, L., & Kager, R. (2012). “Non-tone Monolingual and Bilingual Infants' Tone Perception under Perceptual Reorganization” TAL 2012 Proceedings, ISCA Archive
  2. Liu, L., & Kager, R. (2013). “How Bilingualism Alter Infants' Tone Perception during Perceptual Reorganization”. BUCLD 37 Proceedings, 231-240, Cascadilla Press.

Index Terms: tone, adult, speech perception, bilingualism, acoustic salience

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Liu, Liquan / Kager, René (2014): "The discrimination of tonal contrasts by monolingual and bilingual adults", In TAL-2014, 87-90.