While the Ganong lexicality effect has been observed for phonemic and tonal categorization, the effects of frequency and markedness are less clear, especially in terms of tonal categorization. In this study, we use Mandarin Chinese to investigate the effects of lexicality, tone frequency and markedness. We examined Mandarin speakers’ tonal categorization of tokens on all possible tonal continua with one end being a word and the other being a tonotactic gap (i.e., an unattested syllable-tone combination). The results of a forced-choice identification experiment showed a general bias against the gap endpoints, with the noted exception of continua involving T4 (X51), the most frequent lexical tone. Specifically, when T4 served as the gap endpoint, no obvious bias against it was observed regardless of its lexical status. Moreover, on the T3–T4 continua, there was an apparent bias against T3 (X214), the tone with the most complex contour, again, regardless of lexicality, suggesting a strong markedness effect. Taken together, the results of this study show the individual effects of lexicality, tone frequency and markedness, as well as their interactions, which contribute to our understanding of tonal categorization in relation to lexical statistics (tone frequency) and phonology (markedness).
Yang T-H, Jin S-J and Lu Y-A (2022) The Effect of Lexicality, Frequency, and Markedness on Mandarin Tonal Categorization. Front. Psychol. 13:836865. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.836865