Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Hurtig, Richard R

First Committee Member

Beckman, Jill N

Second Committee Member

Coblin, Weldon S

Third Committee Member

Fox, Robert A

Fourth Committee Member

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E


The current study lays the groundwork for a model of Mandarin tones based on both native speakers' and non-native speakers' perception and production. It demonstrates that there is variability in non-native speakers' tone productions and that there are differences in the perceptual boundaries in native speakers and non-native speakers.

There are four experiments in this study. Experiment 1 utilizes native speakers' production data from a published speech database to explore the features of tone production by native speakers. Inter-speaker normalization is used to analyze the data. Experiment 2 synthesizes 81 tones that are carried by four sentences to measure perception by native and non-native speakers. The intra-speaker and inter-speaker normalization is used to investigate the perceptual space of T1, T2, T3, and T4. The researcher also explores the salient features distinguish native speakers' and non-native speakers' perception of the four principal tones. Experiment 3 uses both synthesized tones and natural tones that are carried by sentences to explore how pitch values of tones create overlapping areas in the perceptual map. Experiment 4 examines tone production by non-native speakers to identify the differences between native speakers' perception and non-native speakers' production; and the differences between non-native speakers' perception and their production of tones.

The results of the perception and production experiments with native speakers show the perceptual boundaries and tonal categories in the perceptual space and the production space. The difference of native speakers' perception and production shows us the perceptual cue for perception. Meanwhile, the similarities of native speakers' perception and production reveal the acoustic cues, including register and contour, for tone perception and production. The results of the perception experiments with non-native speakers indicate that there are no clear boundaries, and that tone overlap in the perceptual space. Register plays an important role in the perception of tones by non-native speakers. The results of non-native speaker production also show overlapping tones in the acoustic space. The non-native speaker production appears to be determined by the contour of the tones in contrast both the contour and register determine the tonal categories of native speaker.


Categorical Perception, Mandarin Tones, Non-native speech, Production


xiv, 183 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 169-178).


Copyright 2010 Bei Yang