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On native Danish learners' challenges in distinguishing /tai/, /cai/ and /zai/: A perceptual study

Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review

With a growing interest in learning Chinese globally, there is a growing interest for phonologists and language instructors to understand how nonnative Chinese learners perceive the Chinese sound inventory. We experimentally investigated the Danish (L 1) speaker’s perception of three Mandarin Chinese (L2) initial consonants, namely <t c z>, phonologically /th ts tsh/. Impressionistically, disentangling tai-cai-zai is extremely challenging for Danish learners, but experimental confirmation is lacking (Wang, Sloos & Zhang 2015, forthcoming). Eighteen native Danish learners of Chinese of Aarhus University participated in an ABX experiment. They were auditorily presented pairs of the critical stimuli tai-cai-zai, te-ce-ze and tuo-cuo-zuo combined with all four tones and alternated with fillers. The subjects indicated for each pair which of the two words matched the pinyin description. The expected results show that beginner learners perform on chance level regarding the distinction between t and z and between c and z. The reason is that in Danish, which has an aspiration contrast between plosives (like Chinese) /th/ is variably pronounced as affricated /ts/ and many speakers are unaware of this optional variation. This inhibits the distinction between Chinese t and z (pronounced as /th ts/). Further, Danish has no affricates, which makes the distinction between different affricates based on the aspiration contrast (like cai-zai) particularly difficult.
Udgivelsesår9 maj 2015
StatusUdgivet - 9 maj 2015

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