Prof. Carlos Gussenhoven (National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University & Radboud University)

Prof. Yu-an Lu (National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University)

Prof. Sang-Im Lee-Kim (National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University)

Time: 12:10-13:10, Friday, April 30
Venue: HC3, 4F, R402, NYCU (國立陽明交通大學人社三館4樓402)  
Title: Exploring the Sequence Recall Task for Pitch Distinctions
Abstract: The Sequence Recall Task (SRT) has been used to detect the lexical status of word stress. We address the question whether the SRT can similarly distinguish languages with and without lexical tone. Using three pitch contrasts implemented on monosyllabic stimuli in addition to a segmental control contrast, we administered an SRT to speakers of atonal Indonesian, semi-tonal Swedish, tonal Zhumadian Mandarin, and tonal Taiwan Mandarin. Two hypotheses were tested. The first was that high performance in an SRT with pitch contrasts indicates the lexical status of tone. The second hypothesis was that performance in a tonal SRT depends on a number of phonological and phonetic factors that characterize tone systems. The first hypothesis was not fully borne out because of the strong effects of the factors addressing the second hypothesis. Specifically, the salience of the pitch contrast, the presence of the pitch contrast in a language’s phonology, and the complexity of the tone system strongly influenced the accuracy scores, by the side of the general aptitude of participants as measured by their performance on the segmental control contrast. We attribute this finding to the richer phonological nature of tone, which functions in tone systems of greatly varying complexity across languages, compared to stress, which typically is a binary concept. This suggests that a tonal SRT is less likely to discriminate between tonal and atonal languages sampled from a typologically varied group, but might well usefully discriminate between otherwise similar tonal and atonal varieties of the same language, as available for Swedish, whose tonal varieties have not in fact been generally recognized as being tonal.