The effect of intertalker variations on acoustic-perceptual mapping in Cantonese and Mandarin tone systems

Gang Peng, Caicai Zhang, Hong Ying Zheng, James W. Minett, William Shi Yuan Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This study investigates the impact of intertalker variations on the process of mapping acoustic variations on tone categories in two different tone languages. Method: Pitch stimuli manipulated from four voice ranges were presented in isolation through a blocked-talker design. Listeners were instructed to identify the stimuli that they heard as lexical tones in their native language. Results: Tone identification of Mandarin listeners exhibited relatively stable normalization regardless of the voice, whereas tone identification of Cantonese listeners was unstable and susceptible to the influence of intertalker variations. In the case of Cantonese listeners, intertalker variations had a larger effect on the perception of F0 height dimension than of F0 slope dimension. Conclusion: The comparison between Cantonese and Mandarin listeners' performances reveals an interaction of intertalker variations and the types of tone contrasts in each language. For Cantonese tones, which depend heavily on F0 height distinctions, intertalker variations result in F0 overlapping and, consequently, ambiguities among them in isolated tone perception. For Mandarin tones, which are distinctive in terms of their F0 contours, the differences in F0 contours alone seem sufficient to elicit reliable tone identification. Intertalker variations therefore have relatively limited effect on Mandarin tone perception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-595
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cantonese
  • Fundamental frequency
  • Mandarin
  • Talker normalization
  • Tone perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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