Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 165–179

Lexical tone in Cantonese spoken-word processing


DOI: 10.3758/BF03211886

Cite this article as:
Cutler, A. & Chen, HC. Perception & Psychophysics (1997) 59: 165. doi:10.3758/BF03211886


In three experiments, the processing of lexical tone in Cantonese was examined. Cantonese listeners more often accepted a nonword as a word when the only difference between the nonword and the word was in tone, especially when theF0 onset difference between correct and erroneous tone was small.Same-different judgments by these listeners were also slower and less accurate when the only difference between two syllables was in tone, and this was true whether theF0 onset difference between the two tones was large or small. Listeners with no knowledge of Cantonese produced essentially the samesame-different judgment pattern as that produced by the native listeners, suggesting that the results display the effects of simple perceptual processing rather than of linguistic knowledge. It is argued that the processing of lexical tone distinctions may be slowed, relative to the processing of segmental distinctions, and that, in speeded-response tasks, tone is thus more likely to be misprocessed than is segmental structure.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for PsycholinguisticsNijmegenThe Netherlands

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