At this week’s MCQLL meeting (1:30-2:30pm Wednesday, November 11), Bing’er Jiang, a sixth year PhD student at the McGill Linguistics Department, will present her work on the perceptual tonal space in Mandarin Chinese continuous speech. Talk abstract is below.
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Abstract: This study examines the perceptual tonal space in Mandarin Chinese continuous speech and how various acoustic properties signalling the tonal contrast are represented in this space. Previous studies on Mandarin tones mainly focus on words produced in isolation, but there is little understanding on the perception of tones in continuous speech, which are realized with more variability. We first evaluate the importance of three acoustic correlates (pitch, intensity, and duration) for the tonal contrast by using a set of tone classification models trained on broadcast news. Instead of model ablation, we use a novel method of data ablation inspired from conventional perceptual experiments to restrict the acoustic information the model can access. We further force the model to learn a low-dimensional representation, which can be seen as the model’s perceptual representation for tones. We find that the information for tonal distinction can be compressed in a two-dimensional space, and the structure of the space corresponds to the findings on human’s perception of isolated tones in the literature.