Is Cantonese lexical tone information important for sentence recognition accuracy in quiet and in noise?

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Abstract

In Chinese languages, tones are used to express the lexical meaning of words. It is therefore important to analyze the role of lexical tone in Chinese sentence recognition accuracy. There is a lack of research on the role of Cantonese lexical tones in sentence recognition accuracy. Therefore, this study examined the contribution of lexical tone information to Cantonese sentence recognition accuracy and its cognitive correlates in adults with normal hearing (NH). A text-to-speech synthesis engine was used to synthesize Cantonese daily-use sentences with each word carrying an original or a flat lexical tone, which were then presented to 97 participants in quiet, in speech-shaped noise (SSN), and in two-talker babble (TTB) noise conditions. Both target sentences and noises were presented at 65 dB binaurally via insert headphones. It was found that listeners with NH can almost perfectly recognize a daily-use Cantonese sentence with mismatched lexical tone information in quiet, while their sentence recognition decreases substantially in noise. The same finding was reported for Mandarin, which has a relatively simple tonal system, suggesting that the current results may be applicable to other tonal languages. In addition, working memory (WM) was significantly related to decline in sentence recognition score in the TTB but not in the SSN, when the lexical tones were mismatched. This finding can be explained using the Ease of Language Understanding model and suggests that those with higher WM are less likely to be affected by the degraded lexical information for perceiving daily-use sentences in the TTB. Copyright © 2022 Yuan Chen.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0276254
JournalPLoS One
Volume17
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Citation

Chen, Y. (2022). Is Cantonese lexical tone information important for sentence recognition accuracy in quiet and in noise? PLoS One, 17(10). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0276254

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