Participants recruiting -- Free Mandarin tutorial provided!

Hi everyone!
I am a linguistic student currently looking for participants (who have to be A: English-native speakers; B: between 18-32 years old) for my dissertation regarding Mandarin tones. The experiment lasts around 15-20 minutes, including two imitation tasks about some Chinese pseudo words written in Pinyin. It will be conducted online. You will be provided with a free Mandarin tutorial for your participation. Any other questions concerning your studies are also welcome in your future Mandarin learning process!

If you are interested and require more information, please send an email to

Thank you!

I’m interested in participating. I sent you an email. I’m a native English speaker and am 29.

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Hi! Thank you very much for your message and for showing some interests. Unfortunately the program has been completed last year. But thank you again for your help! :slight_smile:

Oh, shame I didn’t see this earlier. I would’ve loved to participate. Have you published your findings? It sounds really interesting!

That’s great that you find this interesting. It’s for my MA dissertation and the results are not published. But the experiement was successful and the results yielded were accordant with my hypotheses, which was a rather theoretical one.

Basically, one of the prevalent views in linguistics is that human is born with a set of “grammar”. People from different language backgrounds speak different languages because the set of universal rules are reordered by language environments where people live. Note that the rules are reordered not replaced. Some rules that are ranked lower in one language are ranked higher in another. For instance, one rule ® says: syllables prefer to end in vowels. Languages where R ranks higher will manifest the principle, such as Japanese and Mandarin, where syllables cannot end in consonants other than nasals like /n/, e.g., ta, man, etc. However, in languages where R ranks lower, R is covered/masked. For instance, in English, syllables can end in most of the consonants, e.g., bed, cat, etc. However, the rules that are ranked lower can be possibly manifested when listeners acquire another language. We call this “the emergence”.

This experiment on Mandarin tone actually provides support for “the emergence”. The universal grammar rules that: adjacent linguistic units (e.g., tones) prefer to be dissimilar (D). D is ranked lower in Mandarin, but because English does not have tones so Enligsh speakers abide by this rule whenever in encounter. It is found that English-speaking Mandarin learners with a lower proficiency level show more of this principle when producing Mandarin tones than those with a higher proficiency level. Especially, evidence can hardly be seen in advanced learners, whose tone production is similar to that of Mandarin native speakers.

The answer gets a bit long… I hope it makes sense!


I find this quite interesting because I think Chomsky’s universal grammar theory is one of those that are worth debating in the literature (cf. say, Krashen’s input hypothesis for which the debate is pretty much settled). I might be wrong, though, cause I’m definitely no expert.

Anyway; so your findings suggest that high-proficiency Mandarin learners are more successful in suppressing (D) as they produce Mandarin tones - right? I wonder how they would compare to English-learning native Chinese speakers. Given the stated universal grammar rule on adjacent tones, one would suspect that English-learning native Chinese speakers would be able to better adjust to English stresses than Mandarin-learning native English speakers.

This is really cool research! Could be a gateway to a PhD :grin:

ps: Are you doing qual or quant? I suspect it’s a quant research; if so, what sample size did your supervisor ask for? Sorry, just curious cause I’ve never done empirical research in linguistics

One important distinction to consider is whether the learners “learned” or “acquired” their tones. Performance is quite different in beginners with similar amounts of contact time depending on whether the teacher uses rich CI or traditional methods. There is hardly any acquisition-based teaching going on in Taiwan – certainly not much at any of the major language centers.

You are right that Chomsky’s view remains controversial in the literature. I don’t think I’ve read about Krashen’s hypothesis, but I’ll have a look. :slight_smile:

That’s a very interesting question. For this hypothesis, I’m also thinking about influence from native acoustic features – native Enligsh and Mandarin speakers might pay attention to different acoustic cues in hearing sounds, as English stress is mainly specified by amplitude, while Mandarin tone is mainly featured by pitch direction. But of course in conducting the experiment we need to consider many different factors. The question you raised indeed could be a topic that worths exploration!

Thanks! Although I chose a different topic for my PhD research :joy:

I’m doing quant, but the data base is relatively small due to the Covid situation. I’ve only investigated 20 people in total with each participant producing about 240 syllables (with tones).

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That’s true indeed. It’s difficult to control language input and learning process for different individuals, which highly depends on teaching methods and individual differences.