Online adjustment of phonetic expectation of lexical tones to accommodate speaker variation: a combined behavioural and ERP study

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6 Citations (Scopus)


An unresolved question in speech perception is how speech signals with speaker variation are mapped onto their perceptual representations. In this study, this issue was examined using a written-word/spoken-word matching paradigm, where listeners could adjust phonetic expectations of spoken words carrying lexical tones according to speaker-specific F0 cues contained in a preceding speech context, to analyse the tone of the incoming spoken word. Behavioural results showed that Cantonese listeners perceived spoken words differently, in a way compatible with the adjustment of F0 expectations of lexical tones to accommodate between- and within-speaker variation in F0. Electrophysiologically, effects of F0 expectation adjustment were found in the phonological mapping negativity (PMN) time-window (250–310 ms after spoken word onset). These results suggest that phonetic representations of lexical tones are adjustable in a speaker- and context-specific manner, with the adjustment occurring no later than pre-lexical phonemic processing. These findings are consistent with exemplar theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-195
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


  • Cantonese
  • lexical tones
  • phonological mapping negativity
  • signal-to-representation mapping
  • Speaker variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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