Who do you love, your mother or your horse? An event-related brain potential analysis of tone processing in Mandarin Chinese

Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In Mandarin Chinese, word meaning is partially determined by lexical tone (Wang, 1973). Previous studies suggest that lexical tone is processed as linguistic information and not as pure tonal information (Gandour, 1998; Van Lanker & Fromkin, 1973). The current study explored the online processing of lexical tones. Event-related potentials were obtained from 25 Mandarin speakers while they listened to normal and anomalous sentences containing one of three types of semantic anomalies created by manipulating the tone, the syllable, or both tone and syllable (double-anomaly) of sentence-final words. We hypothesized N400 effects elicited by all three types of anomalies and the largest by the double-anomaly. As expected, all three elicited N400 effects starting approximately 150 ms poststimulus and continuing until 1000 ms in some areas. Surprisingly, onset of the double-anomaly effect was approximately 50 ms later than the rest. Delayed detection of errors in this condition may be responsible for the apparent delay. Slight differences between syllable and tone conditions may be due to the relative timing of these acoustic cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-135
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2004

Keywords

  • Chinese
  • Event-related potentials
  • Lexical tone
  • N400

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Linguistics and Language

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