Publication, Research, Faculty, Graduate Student

Publication - Tone Slips in Cantonese

July 17, 2019

Professor Dr. John Alderete, Assistant Professor Dr. Henny Yeung, and former MA student Queenie Chan collaborated on a research article which has just been published. 

The article entitled 'Tone slips in Cantonese: evidence for early phonological encoding' was recently published by Cognition, and is a part of the journal's October 2019 issue. 

Cognition is an international journal that publishes theoretical and experimental papers on the study of the mind. It covers a wide variety of subjects concerning all the different aspects of cognition, ranging from biological and experimental studies to formal analysis. 


This article examines speech errors in Cantonese with the aim of fleshing out a larger speech production architecture for encoding phonological tone. A corpus was created by extracting 2462 speech errors, including 668 tone errors, from audio recordings of natural conversations.

The structure of these errors was then investigated in order to distinguish two contemporary approaches to tone in speech production. In the tonal frames account, tone is encoded like metrical stress, represented in abstract structural frames for a word. Because tone cannot be mis-selected in tonal frames, tone errors are expected to be rare and non-contextual, as observed with stress. An alternative is that tone is actively selected in phonological encoding like phonological segments. This approach predicts that tone errors will be relatively common and exhibit the contextual patterns observed with segments, like perseveration and anticipation.

In our corpus, tone errors are the second most common type of error, and the majority of errors exhibit contextual patterns that parallel segmental errors. Building on prior research, a two-stage model of phonological tone encoding is proposed, following the patterns seen in tone errors: Tone is phonologically selected concurrently with segments, but then sequentially assigned after segments to a syllable.

Alderete, John, & Chan, Queenie, & Yeung, Henny H. (October 2019). Tone slips in Cantonese: Evidence for early phonological encoding. Cognition, 191. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.04.021