Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Pui-Fong Kan

Second Advisor

Neeraja Sadagopan

Third Advisor

Bhuvana Narasinham

Fourth Advisor

Christine Brennan


The current study compared adult bilingual Mandarin-English speakers and monolingual English speakers’ ability to perceive linguistic (word and non-word) as well as non-linguistic (pure tone) auditory tonal contrasts to investigate the presence of both a linguistic and cross domain advantage based on tone language experience. Accuracy and reaction time were recorded for all three conditions during a tone perception discrimination task. Findings did not reveal such advantage in any context, however the bilingual Mandarin-English group was more accurate in the word condition suggesting additional semantic information contributed to the group’s decisions about tone contrasts. Additionally, the bilingual group exhibited a trend of slower reaction times across all conditions. Randomization of stimuli and both relevant and non-relevant information together may have contributed to an increased cognitive load for the bilingual group. Together, the results show that tone perception may not be a result of tone language experience and further investigation will provide insight into neural perception, processing, and access of tone.