Pinyin interference effects during Mandarin word recognition

Ng, Janelle, Suarez, Lidia, and Veera, Roodra (2015) Pinyin interference effects during Mandarin word recognition. In: Presentations from the 10th International Symposium on Bilingualism. pp. 1-38. From: ISB10: 10th International Symposium on Bilingualism, 20-24 May 2015, New Jersey, NY, USA.

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Pinyin is the Latin alphabetic representation of Chinese characters that assists Mandarin-language learners in pronunciation (e.g., Chung, 2003). However, studies (e.g., Bassetti, 2006) have shown that pinyin might interfere with learning. For example, the pinyin for the word 班 is ban, pronounced as /pan/ and not /ban/. Thus, pinyin may confuse English speakers learning Mandarin, as pinyin might activate first language letter-to-sound conversions that would interfere with the encoding of Mandarin pronunciation (Pytlyk, 2011). We hypothesised that if pinyin hinders learning, non Mandarin speakers exposed to pinyin while studying Mandarin words would recognise studied words less accurately and more slowly than those who studied the same words with no pinyin. In the first of two experiments , 39 Mandarin and 31 non Mandarin speakers studied 24 Mandarin words starting with the pinyin letters b or p, and g or k, pronounced as [p], [pʰ], [k] and [kʰ], respectively (examples in Table 1). In the second experiment, 58 Mandarin and 46 nonMandarin speakers studied words beginning with d or t, and j or q (pronounced [t], [tʰ], [tɕ] and [tɕʰ], respectively). Approximately half of the participants heard the words without seeing pinyin, and the other half heard them while pinyin transcriptions were displayed. Afterwards, all participants were asked to recognise studied versus non studied words (Table 1; no pinyin was used during the recognition phases). Two 2(Experiment: experiment 1, experiment 2) X 2(Speaker: Mandarin, non Mandarin) X 2(Condition: pinyin, no pinyin) X 2(Word pair: b-p and g-k [experiment 1] or d-t and j-q [experiment 2]) mixed designs were used to test the hypotheses. The between-subjects variables were the experiment, speaker, and condition. The within-subjects variable was the word pair. The dependent variables were discrimination (d') and response latencies for correctly discriminated words. Results showed that participants found it easier to discriminate phonemes in experiment 1 than in experiment 2. Also, Mandarin speakers discriminated similarly and relatively well in both the pinyin and no pinyin conditions, while non Mandarin speakers discriminated better in the no pinyin condition than in the pinyin condition, but the difference did not reach significance. However, the difference did reach significance for response latencies in experiment 1, wherein non Mandarin speakers recognised studied words with no pinyin faster than words studied with pinyin, while Mandarin speakers' response latencies were similar in the pinyin and no pinyin conditions. In contrast, in experiment 2, pinyin did not affect response latencies (Figure 1). The findings suggest that for non Mandarin speakers and sounds that can be discriminated easily ([p] vs. [pʰ], and [k] vs. [kʰ]), pinyin might block recognition as evidenced in longer recognition times. In contrast, when sounds were difficult to discriminate (experiment 2), pinyin neither blocked nor facilitated recognition. We also expected difficulty discriminating [tɕ'ɕ] versus [tɕʰ], since these sounds are not found in English. However, [t] and [tʰ] were as difficult to discriminate as [tɕ] and [tɕʰ]. A future study will analyse features (e.g., aspiration) associated with pairs of phonemes for which non Mandarin speakers show poor discrimination.

Item ID: 39120
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Keywords: pinyin, Chinese, foreign language acquisition, bilingualism
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Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2015 23:36
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1702 Cognitive Science > 170204 Linguistic Processes (incl Speech Production and Comprehension) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences @ 100%
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