Mental representation of tonal spreading in Bemba: Evidence from elicited production and perception

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2015.1108768
Author(s): Nancy C KulaDepartment of Language and Linguistics, UK, Bettina BraunFachbereich Sprachwissenschaft, Germany


Previous research has shown that listeners from tonal languages are better at processing tone compared to speakers from non-tonal languages. However, most of this research has tested Asian tone languages, particularly those which have many tonal contrasts and a dense tone-to-syllable association. In this paper we investigate the mental representation of derived tones in Bemba, a Bantu language that has a two-way tone contrast but which shows robust tone spreading patterns. Specifically, we test ternary high-tone spreading, a process that is unique from a phonological perspective. In a production task we test whether ternary spread can be extended to non-words. We complement this with an AX discrimination task comparing binary vs ternary spread, which are phonologically contrastive, on the one hand, with a tonally similarly salient but non-phonologically relevant contrast, on the other. We show that in both the production and percep- tion of non-words, ternary spread is distinct from binary spread, suggesting that derived tone is equally mentally represented as lexical tone is in Asian tone languages.

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