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Mandarin Tone Acquisition as a Multimodal Learning Problem: Tone 3 Diacritic Manipulation

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Title:Mandarin Tone Acquisition as a Multimodal Learning Problem: Tone 3 Diacritic Manipulation
Authors:Bramlett, Adam
Keywords:non-native speech perception
multimodal learning
tone 3
Date Issued:14 Apr 2021
Abstract:Through a tone knowledge survey and tone identification training task, I explore the
extent to which visual representation of tone affects tone identification and tone learning. I use
T3 as a case study in understanding the extent to which visual representation affects
identification. Recent work on tone learning suggests there may be a link between different
multimodal cueing mechanisms and efficient learning of tones. McGinnis (1997) finds that
Pinyin diacritics are one of the most effective representation systems for learning Mandarin
tones. However, Pinyin is also historically used as a descriptive representation of native speaker
phonological knowledge. The dual purpose of the visual representation systems of tone creates a
tension between a descriptive model of tone and an L2 learning aid. T3 shows extreme variation
from a full T3 that falls and rises to a low T3. Zhang (2018) claims that Mandarin learners are
not taught about T3 low features. The first experiment in this study found that current Mandarin
learners disproportionately lack explicit knowledge of T3 low features but not other T3 features
or any other tones’ features. Next, a tone identification training task was conducted to see if
changing the visualization of T3 to low T3 would affect the learning of T3 and other tones.
Findings show that T3 and T2 identification improved in the condition where T3 is represented
visually as a low tone rather than full tone. Together, these findings suggest that many Mandarin
learners do not know about T3 low features and that learning T3 with a low-tone visualization
can positively affect the identification of T3 and T2. Using multimodal means to improve the
representation of T3 may help reduce confusion in early stages and remedy long term acquisition
problems of T3 and T2.
Appears in Collections: MA and AGC Scholarly Papers

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