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FACTORS INFLUENCING SENSITIVITY TO LEXICAL TONE IN AN ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGE

Implications for Second Language Learning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2015

Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris*
Affiliation:
Boston University
Alia Lancaster
Affiliation:
University of Maryland
D. Robert Ladd
Affiliation:
The University of Edinburgh
Dan Dediu
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Morten H. Christiansen
Affiliation:
Cornell University
*
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA, 02215. E-mail: charris@bu.edu

Abstract

This study examined whether musical training, ethnicity, and experience with a natural tone language influenced sensitivity to tone while listening to an artificial tone language. The language was designed with three tones, modeled after level-tone African languages. Participants listened to a 15-min random concatenation of six 3-syllable words. Sensitivity to tone was assessed using minimal pairs differing only in one syllable (nonword task: e.g., to-kà-su compared to ca-fí-to) or only in tone (tone task: e.g., to-kà-su compared to to-ká-su). Proficiency in an East Asian heritage language was the strongest predictor of success on the tone task. Asians without tone language experience were no better than other ethnic groups. We conclude by considering implications for research on second language learning, especially as approached through artificial language learning.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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FACTORS INFLUENCING SENSITIVITY TO LEXICAL TONE IN AN ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGE
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