The effect of overnight consolidation in the perceptual learning of non-native tonal contrasts

Zhen Qin, Caicai Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Sleep-mediated overnight consolidation has been found to facilitate perceptual learning by promoting learners’ generalization across talkers in their perception of novel segmental categories. Lexical tone is characterized by high variability across talkers, and displays dynamic change over time. For this reason, it remains unclear whether a similar effect of overnight consolidation would be found for perceptual learning of novel tonal contrasts. Thus, this study aims to examine whether overnight consolidation facilitates talker-independent learning of lexical tones in the identification and discrimination of novel Cantonese level tones by Mandarin listeners. Two groups of Mandarin listeners were perceptually trained either in the morning or in the evening. Listeners were trained in a tone identification (ID) task with feedback using stimuli produced by a trained talker. Their post-training changes and generalization to a novel talker were then tested in the ID and AX discrimination tasks using stimuli produced by trained and untrained talkers in three posttests following training: immediately after training, 12-hour delay, and 24-hour delay. While the evening group slept between the first and second posttests, the morning group did not. The accuracy rates in the ID task showed that the evening group showed an improved trend, predicted by their individual sleep time, in identifying the level tones produced by both the trained and untrained talkers; in contrast, the morning group showed a declining trend. The d-prime scores in the AX discrimination task did not show different patterns between the two groups. The finding of sleep-related identification changes over time suggests that overnight consolidation might have facilitated tone learning of stimuli produced by the novel talker and eventually facilitated the formation of a more talker-independent representation of novel tone categories in long-term memory. The results are discussed in light of the features of lexical tones to shed light on the mechanism of phonetic learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0221498
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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