Relating production and perception of L2 tone

James Kirby, Đinh Lư Giang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Research on production/perception relationship in a second language (L2) has focused chiefly on segmental contrasts. In the domain of lexical tone, studies of how production and perception are related at the level of the individual are rare. This paper considers the relation between production and perception of L2 tone in speakers of Kiên Giang Khmer, a non-tonal language, who are also fluent to varying degrees in Southern Vietnamese, a language with 5 lexical tones. In addition to directly comparing L2 to L1 performance in tonal production and perception, we explore how perception might be related to the internal organization of a speaker’s own production system by comparing distances between f0 curves to accuracy in a speeded AX discrimination task. Relative to native speakers of Southern Vietnamese, we found considerable individual variation among speakers of Kiên Giang Khmer with L2 knowledge of Vietnamese in the degree to which they approximated Vietnamese tonal targets.Production accuracy was most strongly related to age, while discrimination performance correlated best with education. In addition, we observed a weak correlation between the acoustic distance of a Khmer speaker’s production of tone T to the native Vietnamese production of T, and the ability to discriminate tone T from other tones. However, speakers who acoustically separated two tones in their own productions were also more accurate at discriminating those tones in perception, regardless of how well those productions approximated native speaker targets.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSecond Language Speech Learning
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical and Empirical Progress
EditorsRatree Wayland
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108886901
ISBN (Print)9781108840637
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2021


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