An Eye-tracking Study on Mandarin Tone Perception of Children

Xifan Zhang, Ting Wang

In Mandarin, tones have the same function as phonemes, which can distinguish a word from others. Lexical tone processing in speech involves acoustic perception and semantic integration. However, the mechanisms that underpin the interaction between acoustic and semantic information in tonal processing are not fully understood. This study investigated RSD (Relative Staring Duration) under the conditions of different image stimuli (the pitch-highlighted image, the semantic-highlighted image) and sound stimuli (real words, pseudo-words, and filtered words) in 11 typically developing children using an SMI eye tracker. Results indicated that Mandarin-speaking children performed better on pitch perception in speech than in non-speech, but showed a comparable performance on real words and pseudo-words. Moreover, results showed that the tone perception of Mandarin-speaking children was not affected by tone types. These findings suggest that Mandarin tone perception of children cannot rely solely on pitch processing. Meanwhile, though the pitch perception of children is not influenced by semantic information in speech, Mandarin-speaking children still have the ability of distinguishing acoustic features from linguistic meanings of high-dimensional speech signals.

 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-61

Cite as: Zhang, X., Wang, T. (2020) An Eye-tracking Study on Mandarin Tone Perception of Children. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 299-303, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-61.

  author={Xifan Zhang and Ting Wang},
  title={{An Eye-tracking Study on Mandarin Tone Perception of Children}},
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},