Statistical Speech Segmentation in Tone Languages: The Role of Lexical Tones
Gómez, David M.
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Statistical Speech Segmentation in Tone Languages: The Role of Lexical Tones David M. Gómez, Peggy Mok, Mikhail Ordin, Jacques Mehler, Marina Nespor Language and Speech Vol 61, Issue 1, pp. 84 - 96 First Published May 9, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1177/0023830917706529
Research has demonstrated distinct roles for consonants and vowels in speech processing. For example, consonants have been shown to support lexical processes, such as the segmentation of speech based on transitional probabilities (TPs), more effectively than vowels. Theory and data so far, however, have considered only non-tone languages, that is to say, languages that lack contrastive lexical tones. In the present work, we provide a first investigation of the role of consonants and vowels in statistical speech segmentation by native speakers of Cantonese, as well as assessing how tones modulate the processing of vowels. Results show that Cantonese speakers are unable to use statistical cues carried by consonants for segmentation, but they can use cues carried by vowels. This difference becomes more evident when considering tone-bearing vowels. Additional data from speakers of Russian and Mandarin suggest that the ability of Cantonese speakers to segment streams with statistical cues carried by tone-bearing vowels extends to other tone languages, but is much reduced in speakers of non-tone languages.