Events / ILST Seminar Series: Wei Lai

ILST Seminar Series: Wei Lai

September 6, 2019
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

3401 Walnut Street, Room 401B, 3401 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Wei Lai
Department of Linguistics
University of Pennsylvania


Tone variation in lexical and structural disambiguation


I present two studies on the perception and processing of tone variation in word identification and sentence parsing.


The first study investigates audio-visual integration of talker gender to uncover intended tonal target in Cantonese tone perception, and shows that listeners are more likely to hear a high tone in a male voice than in a female voice for stimuli with equivalent pitch. Furthermore, we find that the influence of gender voice can be absent in pitch perception in a non-linguistic task and become present in a linguistic task, providing evidence for the existence of different processing stages.


The second study investigates whether listeners integrate the co-variation between Mandarin 3rd-tone sandhi (T3->T2/_T3) and prosodic hierarchy to facilitate syntactic parsing and utterance comprehension. Structurally ambiguous sentences are constructed, each containing two consecutive T3 syllables intervened by a word boundary. Different interpretations are derived depending on whether the T3-surrounded boundary is taken as a major or minor syntactic juncture. The result showed more minor-juncture interpretations when tone sandhi applies; moreover, the minor-juncture report rate varies with the slope of the tone sandhi variant.


We discuss the implications on the involvement of phonetic information in linguistic representations.