Unequal impairment of native and non-native tone perception in cantonese speakers with congenital amusia

Gaoyuan Zhang, Jing Shao, Xunan Huang, Lan Wang, Caicai Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationConference articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Congenital amusia is a neurogenetic deficit that impacts pitch processing in music. Studies have shown that the deficit in amusia not only affects pitch processing in music, but also transfers to the language domain, influencing pitch processing in speech, such as lexical tone and intonation perception. Previous studies have shown that amusic individuals are impaired in lexical tone perception in both native and nonnative language speakers. However, it is still unclear whether individuals with amusia are more impaired in the perception of native tones, which have long-term phonological representations, or non-native tones, which depends more on auditory/phonetic pitch processing. To fill this gap, this study examined the discrimination of pairs of native Cantonese tones and non-native Thai tones by 14 Cantonese speakers with amusia and 14 controls. Results showed that Cantonesespeaking amusic individuals were more impaired in the discrimination of non-native Thai tones than native Cantonese tones, suggesting a profound impairment in auditory/phonetic pitch processing in amusia. This finding also suggested that early exposure to a tonal language might not compensate for the impairment of lexical tone processing in a non-native language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-566
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the International Conference on Speech Prosody
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Event9th International Conference on Speech Prosody, SP 2018 - Poznan, Poland
Duration: 13 Jun 201816 Jun 2018


  • Cantonese
  • Congenital amusia
  • Lexical tone
  • Thai
  • Tone discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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