The Roles of Tonal and Segmental Information in Mandarin Spoken Word Recognition: an Eyetracking Study

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Assignment 1 - Article Summary
In their article, “the roles of tonal and segmental information in Mandarin spoken word recognition: an eyetracking study”, Malins and Joanisse investigate how suprasegmental features affect on-line auditory word perception. Current speech perception models have fallen short in accounting for suprasegmental features because all have been based on Indo-European languages. In this study, Malins and Joanisse extend the potential of suprasegmental features by examining the role of tone in auditory word recognition.

Preliminary studies on which Malins and Joanisse based their study show that features of stress alone could not account for word constraint activation. One of the reasons that stress was a poor candidate for word constraint during lexical priming tasks was that they were situated within polysyllabic structures. Tone features, on the other hand, are situated within monosyllabic structures. Listeners of tonal languages are required to make distinctions based on these features alone. In addition, these preliminary studies showed that tonal information was processed after segmental information. However, these propositions were brought into question as Liu and Samuel (2007) discovered that most of the preliminary studies in speech perception did not utilize contextual constraints. More recent studies seem to show that tonal features are more effective in constraining word activation when in a sentential context and segmental features more effective in word constraint in a lack of contextual information. Malins and Joanisse set out to examine the role of tonal features in Mandarin word recognition by employing the visual world paradigm. This would allow the use of eye tracking which would measure the on-line auditory processing among four competitor categories – segmental, cohort, rhyme and tonal. The segmental category shared all phonemic features except for tones, the cohort shared all but word final phonemes, the rhyme...
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