Effects of production training and perception training on lexical tone perception—A behavioral and ERP study

Shuang Lu, Ratree Wayland, Edith Kaan
Brain Research 2015 October 22, 1624: 28-44
The present study recorded both behavioral data and event-related brain potentials to examine the effectiveness of a perception-only training and a perception-plus-production training procedure on the intentional and unintentional perception of lexical tone by native English listeners. In the behavioral task, both the perception-only and the perception-plus-production groups improved on the tone discrimination abilities after the training session. Moreover, the participants in both groups generalized the improvements gained through the trained stimuli to the untrained stimuli. In the ERP task, the Mismatch Negativity was smaller in the post-training task than in the pre-training task. However, the two training groups did not differ in tone processing at the intentional or unintentional level after training. These results suggest that the employment of the motor system does not specifically benefit the tone perceptual skills. Furthermore, the present study investigated whether some tone pairs are more easily confused than others by native English listeners, and whether the order of tone presentation influences non-native tone discrimination. In the behavioral task, Tone2-Tone1 (rising-level) and Tone2-Tone4 (rising-falling) were the most difficult tone pairs, while Tone1-Tone2 and Tone4-Tone2 were the easiest tone pairs, even though they involved the same tone contrasts respectively. In the ERP task, the native English listeners had good discrimination when Tone2 and Tone4 were embedded in strings of Tone1, while poor discrimination when Tone1 was inserted in the context of Tone2 or Tone4. These asymmetries in tone perception might be attributed to the interference of native intonation system and can be altered by training.

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