What is in the neighborhood of a tonal syllable? Evidence from auditory lexical decision in Mandarin Chinese

Yao Yao, Bhamini Sharma


Phonological neighborhood effects have been found in spoken word recognition, word production and phonetic variation (Gahl, Yao, & Johnson, 2012; Luce & Pisoni, 1998; Vitevitch, 2002). Overall, words from dense neighborhoods are harder to recognize but easier to produce. However, most previous studies have focused on English, while evidence suggests that these effects may not generalize cross-linguistically due to language-specific configurations of the lexicon (Michael S Vitevitch & Stamer, 2006, 2009). In the current study, we investigate the effects of phonological neighborhoods in Mandarin Chinese, which has a vastly different lexicon structure from that of English. Results from an auditory lexical decision experiment showed that phonological neighborhood density and neighbor frequency (defined by the one-phoneme/tone difference rule) are predictive of the speed and accuracy of lexical decision. Homophone density also has a facilitative effect on the accuracy of lexical decision. The implications of the current findings are discussed in the framework of the lexicon model proposed by Zhou & Marslen-Wilson (1994, 2009).


phonological neighborhood effect; homophone density effect; Mandarin Chinese; spoken word recognition

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v2i0.4090

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