This study investigates whether L2 Mandarin learners can generalize experience with Mandarin tones to unfamiliar tones (i.e., Thai). Three language groups-L1 English/L2 Mandarin learners (n=18), L1 Mandarin speakers (n=30), L1 monolingual English speakers (n=23)-were tested on the perception of unfamiliar Thai tones on ABX tasks. L2 Mandarin learners and L1 Mandarin speakers perceived Thai tones more accurately than L1 English non-learners. Mandarin learners L1 speakers showed priming on Mandarin tones on a lexical decision task with repetition priming, suggesting L2 tones had been encoded within lexical representations of L2 Mandarin words. However, results must be interpreted cautiously, with an absence of expected priming and presence of unexpected priming. In sum, learners can transfer L2 tone experience to unfamiliar tones, expanding the Feature Hypothesis (McAllister, Flege, & Piske, 2002) to include L2 influence as well. In addition, results indicate a potential disconnect between perception and encoding.
Schaefer, V., & Darcy, I. (2020). Applying a newly learned second language dimension to the unknown: The influence of second language mandarin tones on the naïve perception of thai tones. Psychology of Language and Communication, 24(1), 90–123. https://doi.org/10.2478/plc-2020-0007