About this Research Topic
Early language acquisition research has, for the most part, focused on Germanic and Romance intonation languages (e.g. English, French, Spanish). Consequently, evidence for major theories of language development is based disproportionately on a subset of human languages, where distinctions between words are primarily drawn by vowel and consonant variation, where pitch is largely irrelevant to word meaning. However, in lexical tone and pitch-accent languages, pitch variations at the word level are lexically contrastive. This raises the question of whether existing knowledge and theories concerning language development in intonation languages really applies to learners of tone and pitch-accent languages, a class of languages native to the majority of the world’s language learners. The overarching goal of this research topic is to broaden research in language development by focusing on pitch-accent and tone languages, which are widely spoken, yet remain under-represented in psycholinguistic research. There will be a specific focus on contextualizing findings within existing literature based on intonation languages.
Papers on a range of areas in the development of lexical tones and pitch-accents will be considered including papers that relate to:
Influences of tone and pitch-accent variation on infant speech processing (e.g. speech discrimination, word learning, statistical learning).
Influences of bilingualism on early tone perception.
Determinants of tone perception in infancy and early childhood (e.g. acoustic salience, tone frequency, tone-intonation relationships).
Relationship between the development of pitch-based tone perception and (a) spectrally-based consonant and vowel perception, (b) perception of musical tones and melody, or (c) perception of prosody and intonation.
Properties of tone in infant-/child-directed speech insofar as they influence the acquisition of tone.
Studies of tone perception from second language learners insofar as they inform research on tone development in childhood.
Studies from early tone production that link to studies in tone perception.
Theoretical perspectives (and reformulations of existing theories) on the role of tone in speech and language development.
Keywords: lexical tone, suprasegmental phonology, pitch variation, sandhi, Mandarin Chinese
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