What did you say just now, bitterness or wife?
An ERP study on the interaction between tone, intonation and context in Cantonese Chinese
Kung, C., Chwilla, D. J., Gussenhoven, C., Bögels, S., & Schriefers, H.
What did you say just now, bitterness or wife? An ERP study on the interaction between tone, intonation and context in Cantonese Chinese. In Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2010
Previous studies on Cantonese Chinese showed that rising
question intonation contours on low-toned words lead to
frequent misperceptions of the tones. Here we explored the
processing consequences of this interaction between tone and
intonation by comparing the processing and identification of
monosyllabic critical words at the end of questions and
statements, using a tone identification task, and ERPs as an
online measure of speech comprehension. Experiment 1
yielded higher error rates for the identification of low tones at
the end of questions and a larger N400-P600 pattern, reflecting
processing difficulty and reanalysis, compared to other
conditions. In Experiment 2, we investigated the effect of
immediate lexical context on the tone by intonation interaction.
Increasing contextual constraints led to a reduction in errors
and the disappearance of the P600 effect. These results
indicate that there is an immediate interaction between tone,
intonation, and context in online speech comprehension. The
difference in performance and activation patterns between the
two experiments highlights the significance of context in
understanding a tone language, like Cantonese-Chinese.