The roles of lexical tone and rime during Mandarin sentence comprehension: An event-related potential study

Yun Zou, Ming Lui, Yiu Kei Tsang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


This study used event-related potential (ERP) recording to examine the role of lexical tone and rime in Mandarin Chinese spoken sentence comprehension. A violation paradigm was adopted, such that selected target syllables in the sentences were replaced with tone-violated, rime-violated, or double-violated syllables. Participants judged whether each sentence was congruent. The behavioral results confirmed previous findings: Tone violation was more difficult to detect than rime violation. The ERP results showed that rime and double violations, but not tone violation, elicited a larger N400 than the original condition. Similarly, tone and rime violations elicited a larger P600 than the original condition, and the effect started and ended 50 ms earlier in the tone-violation type. Interestingly, the double-violation type differed significantly from the original type only in the posterior electrodes, suggesting a weaker P600 effect than the tone- and rime-violation types. The differences in ERP effects between rime and tone processing indicate that rime played a more important role in semantic access, while tone played a more important role in error recovery. A model of Chinese speech perception was proposed to accommodate the different roles of lexical tone and rime at different processing stages during sentence comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107578
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Event-related potentials
  • Lexical tone
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Rime
  • Speech perception


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