The neural encoding of productive phonological alternation in speech production: Evidence from Mandarin Tone 3 sandhi

Jie Zhang, Caicai Zhang, Stephen Politzer-Ahles, Ziyi Pan, Xunan Huang, Chang Wang, Gang Peng, Yuyu Zeng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The understanding of alternation is a key goal in phonological research. But little is known about how phonological alternations are implemented in speech production. The current study tested the hypothesis that the production of words that undergo a highly productive alternation, Mandarin Tone 3 sandhi, is supported by a computation mechanism, which predicts that this alternation is subserved by neural activity in a time-window associated with post-lexical phonological and phonetic encoding regardless of word frequency. ERPs were recorded while participants sub-vocally produced high- and low-frequency disyllabic words that do or do not require sandhi. Sandhi words elicited more positive ERPs than non-sandhi words over left anterior channels around 336–520 ms after participants saw the cue instructing them to initiate sub-vocal production, but this effect was not significantly modulated by word frequency. These findings are consistent with predictions of the computation mechanism and have implications for current psycholinguistic models of speech production. (150 words)

Original languageEnglish
Article number101060
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Event-related potentials
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Phonological alternation
  • Speech production
  • Tone sandhi
  • Word frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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