Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Michael I. Mandel

Subject Categories

Computational Linguistics


Mandarin tones, speech perception in noise, native and L2, "bubble" noise


Previous studies have revealed the complexity of Mandarin Tones. For example, similarities in the pitch contours of tones 2 and 3 and tones 3 and 4 cause confusion for listeners. The realization of a tone's contour is highly dependent on its context, especially the preceding pitch. This is known as the coarticulation effect. Researchers have demonstrated the robustness of tone perception by both native and non-native listeners, even with incomplete acoustic information or in noisy environment. However, non-native listeners were observed to behave differently from native listeners in their use of contextual information. For example, the disagreement between the end of a preceding pitch and the beginning of a target pitch degraded L2 listeners' identification performance, but not native listeners'. In this thesis, we use the ``bubble'' noise techniques (Mandel et al., 2016) to explore the difference between native and L2 listeners' tone perception. We focus on whether the two groups of listeners use different time-frequency cues to identify tones, and especially if they use cues from preceding tones differently. We conducted a tone identification listening test on 5 native listeners and 5 L2 listeners. Stimuli consisted of 6 meaningful sentences with the target syllable at the end. The target syllable used one of tones 2, 3 and 4 and was preceded by either tone 1 (high) or 4 (low). These sentences were mixed with ``bubble'' noise. Our results showed some difference in the use of preceding context between the two groups. Statistical analysis of the difficulty level of the task supported that this difference is prominent in harder listening tasks and not in easier tasks.