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J Child Lang. 2013 Sep;40(4):885-99. doi: 10.1017/S0305000912000281. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

The processing of lexical tones by young Chinese children.

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  • 1Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


The current study examined five- and seven-year-old Mandarin-speaking children's processing of lexical tones in relation to speech segments by varying onset and rime in an oddity task (onsetĀ±rimeĀ±). Results showed that children experienced more difficulty in lexical tone oddity judgment when rimes differed across monosyllables (e.g. onset+rime-) than when onsets differed (e.g. onset-rime+). This finding suggests that vowels interfere more than consonants in lexical tone processing. Seven-year-olds consistently outperformed five-year-olds, suggesting that the growth of metalinguistic awareness and literacy exposure may play a joint role in the development of lexical tone processing skills.

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