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Participants wanted - Tone training test


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Hi everyone! I’m a PhD student looking for native English speakers interested in participating in my study. Learners with Mandarin learning experience below six-months are wanted. 


The study involves several language perceptual (listening) tasks lasting within 30 minutes. It will be conducted online. You will only need a computer, a keyboard, and headphones to access the study. Specifically, I’m exploring to what extent the training paradigm I designed can help improve listeners’ ability on distinguishing tones, i.e., pitch patterns that contrast word meanings. Tone is particularly challenging for people learning a new tonal language, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, or Thai. Even advanced learners have been reported to keep having difficulties with tones. Participants will potentially benefit from the training in the study regarding their language perceptual learning ability. All data collected will be anonymised and stored securely.


If you are interested in the study, please contact y.li218@newcastle.ac.uk and I will send you the study link by email. If you have any questions or would like any further information on the study, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a message below!


Many thanks in advance. :)

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@suMMitThank you for your message! I followed up on my original post about the experiment results. I can see it myself, but now by your message I realise I'm not sure if I posted it on the right place and whether it's visible to everyone else. I'm copying it below:



Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well ? This is the update about the experiment.

The experiement was successful and the results yielded were accordant with my hypotheses, which was a rather theoretical one. Basically, one of the prevalent views in linguistics is that human are born with a set of "grammar". People from different language backgrounds speak different languages because the set of universal rules are reordered by the language environments where people live. Note that the rules are reodered not replaced. Some rules that are ranked lower in one language are ranked higher in another. For instance, one rule (R) says: syllables prefer to end in vowels. Languages where R ranks higher will manifest the principle, such as Japanese and Mandarin, where syllables cannot end in consonants other than nasals like /n/, e.g., ta, man, etc. However, in languages where R ranks lower, R is covered/masked. For instance, in English, syllables can end in most of the consonants, e.g., bed, cat, etc. However, the rules that are ranked lower can be possibly manifested when listeners acquire another language. We call this "the emergence". 


This experiment on Mandarin tone actually provides support for "the emergence". The universal grammar rules that: adjacent linguistic units (e.g., tones) prefer to be dissimilar (D). D is ranked lower in Mandarin, but because English does not have tones so Enligsh speakers abide by this rule whenever in encounter. It is found that English-speaking Mandarin learners with a lower proficiency level show more of this principle when producing Mandarin tones than those with a higher proficiency level. Especially, evidence can hardly be seen in advanced learners, whose tone production is similar to that of Mandarin native speakers. 


I know... It's long. But now that you've made it here, here is a short take-away message for its practicial implication: if you struggle to say tones correctly, try to practice reading two characters with identical tones, e.g., ma.ma (both with tone 2) -- you are challenging the inborn universal grammar!


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On 7/5/2022 at 6:31 AM, Yuniverse said:

Learners with Mandarin learning experience below six-months are wanted. 


In that case, you may be interested in contacting Chinese language professors at English speaking countries.

Good thing is you are looking for only below six-months of experience, not more.

If there is any Chinese language courses offered, it's likely that the beginner-level or first semester courses are offered than otherwise.


I already have more than six-months of experiences, so I cannot participate but I hope that you share the results with us again for this.

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