Development of Tone Sensitivity in Young Chinese Children

Candise Chen, Min Wang, University of Maryland, College Park
Hua Shu, Han Wu, Chu Chu Li, Beijing Normal University

We examined the development of tone sensitivity in young children who speak Beijing Mandarin as their native language. Participants included children at age 3 and 5 and adults. Analyses showed that 5-year-olds performed better than 3-year-olds in lexical tone, tone sandhi, and the neutral tone. In the lexical tone task, the older children also showed better performance in the four conditions which varied by whether onset or rime is the same or different (e.g. onset+rime+, onset+rime-, onset-rime+, onset-rime-). These results implied that by age 5, Chinese children began to develop sensitivity to lexical tone, tone sandhi, and the neutral tone.