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Title: The effect of speech variability on tonal language speakers' second language lexical tone learning
Authors: Zhang, KL 
Peng, G 
Li, YH
Minett, JW
Wang, WSY 
Keywords: Speech variability
The second language acquisition
Lexical tones
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
Source: Frontiers in psychology, Oct. 2018, v. 9, 1982, p. 1-13 How to cite?
Journal: Frontiers in psychology 
Abstract: Speech variability facilitates non-tonal language speakers' lexical tone learning. However, it remains unknown whether tonal language speakers can also benefit from speech variability while learning second language (L2) lexical tones. Researchers also reported that the effectiveness of speech variability was only shown on learning new items. Considering that the first language (L1) and L2 probably share similar tonal categories, the present study hypothesizes that speech variability only promotes the tonal language speakers' acquisition of L2 tones that are different from the tones in their L1. To test this hypothesis, the present study trained native Mandarin (a tonal language) speakers to learn Cantonese tones with either high variability (HV) or low variability (LV) speech materials, and then compared their learning performance. The results partially supported this hypothesis: only Mandarin subjects' productions of Cantonese low level and mid level tones benefited from the speech variability. They probably relied on the mental representations in Li to learn the Cantonese tones that had similar Mandarin counterparts. This learning strategy limited the impact of speech variability. Furthermore, the results also revealed a discrepancy between L2 perception and production. The perception improvement may not necessarily lead to an improvement in production.
EISSN: 1664-1078
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01982
Rights: Copyright © 2018 Zhang, Peng, Li, Minett and Wang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY)( The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
The following publication Zhang, K.L., Peng, G., Li, Y.H., Minett, J.W., & Wang, W.S.Y. (2018). The effect of speech variability on tonal language speakers' second language lexical tone learning. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1982, 1-13 is available at
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