Integrated vs independent processing of lexical tone and rime in mandarin sentence comprehension: an event-related potential study

  • Yun Zou

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Although tone plays an important role in Chinese speech perception, many issues regarding tone processing remained debatable. Among these issues, whether tone and segment are integrally or independently processed is the one that motivated this study. To investigate the integration vs. independence view of tone and segment (i.e., rime in this study) processing during Mandarin sentence comprehension, the present experiment adopted the violation paradigm and event- related potential (ERP) recording. Participants heard a series of sentences and judged whether each sentence made sense or not after its offset. The sentences included congruous sentences that embodied the original word (e.g., "观众"/guan1-zhong4/; "audience") and incongruous sentences that were created by mismatching tone (e.g., "观肿"/guan1-zhong3/), rime (e.g., " 观赚"/guan1-zhuan4/) or tone-plus-rime (e.g., "观转"/guan1-zhuan3/) of the second syllable of the original words in the congruous sentences. Larger N400 (250-400 ms) and P600 (500-700 ms) were evoked by the incongruous sentences than congruous sentences. Among the incongruous sentences, the N400 elicited by double violation (i.e., tone-plus-rime violation) was larger than rime violation, which was in turn larger than tone violation. The P600 evoked by tone violation was larger than rime violation in 500-600 ms, but they were comparable in 600-700 ms. In addition, the P600 evoked by tone and rime violation were both larger than double violation. The different ERP effects among the three violation conditions supported the independence view of tone and rime processing. Based on the results, a dynamic model of spoken word processing was proposed, in which the functional dissociation of tone and segment across different stages was taken into consideration.

Date of Award3 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYiu Kei TSANG (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese language
  • Mandarin dialects
  • Phonetics
  • Tone

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