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Higher-level linguistic categories dominate lower-level acoustics in lexical tone processing
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Native tonal-language speakers exhibit reduced sensitivity to lexical tone differences within, compared to across, categories (higher-level linguistic category influence). Yet, sensitivity is enhanced among musically trained, non-tonal-language-speaking individuals (lower-level acoustics processing influence). The current study investigated the relative contribution of higher- and lower-level influences when both are present. Seventeen Mandarin musicians completed music pitch and lexical tone
discrimination tasks. Similar to English musicians [Zhao and Kuhl (2015). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 137(3), 1452–1463], Mandarin musicians' overall sensitivity to lexical tone differences was associated with music pitch score, suggesting lower-level contributions. However, the musician's sensitivities to lexical tone pairs along a continuum were similar to Mandarin non-musicians, reflecting dominant higher-level influences.
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