Zhang, W., Clayards, M., & Torreira, F. Phonological Contrast Effects in Native Imitation of the Mandarin Flat-Falling Tonal Continua. 101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2023.101277


Phonetic imitation has been found to be mediated by phonological contrast. For features whose values vary around a phonological prototype, the imitation is distorted by the phonological category, i.e., the imitation is nonlinear. This phonological mediation effect was mostly found in segmental features such as VOT and formants. Supra-segmental features, on the contrary, are generally found to be easy to imitate, i.e., the imitation is linear. Nevertheless, whether the phonological effect exists in the imitation of supra-segmental features is not fully understood. This study, through an imitation experiment of Mandarin flat-falling tonal continua, examined whether a supra-segmental feature would be linearly imitated when it is the primary cue (F0 range) and the non-primary cue (duration) to the tonal contrast, respectively. Results showed that F0 range imitation was non-linear while duration imitation was linear. This reveals that the phonological effect is stronger in mediating imitation than would be predicted by the general hypothesis that supra-segmental features are easier to imitate.