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Memory traces for tonal language words revealed by auditory event-related potentials

Authors

  • Feng Gu,

    1. CAS Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Diseases, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    2. Auditory Research Laboratory, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • Jing Li,

    1. CAS Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Diseases, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    2. Auditory Research Laboratory, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • Xiaodong Wang,

    1. CAS Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Diseases, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    2. Auditory Research Laboratory, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • Qiongqiong Hou,

    1. CAS Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Diseases, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    2. Auditory Research Laboratory, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • Yina Huang,

    1. CAS Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Diseases, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    2. Auditory Research Laboratory, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • Lin Chen

    Corresponding author
    1. Auditory Research Laboratory, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    • CAS Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Diseases, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (Grant 2011CB504506) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants 30970977 and 30730041).

Address correspondence to: Dr. Lin Chen, Auditory Research Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China. E-mail: linchen@ustc.edu.cn

Abstract

In tonal languages such as Mandarin Chinese, suprasegmental tones are used to signal word meaning besides consonants and vowels. To reveal memory traces for tonal language words, we presented native Mandarin Chinese speakers with a sequence of spoken syllables as standards and disyllables as deviants in a passive oddball paradigm. The second syllable of each disyllable carried critical tonal information that would define the disyllable either as a meaningful word or as a meaningless pseudoword. The words and pseudowords were acoustically and phonologically matched as well as counterbalanced. The auditory event-related potential in response to words was more negatively deflected than that in response to pseudowords. This effect was most prominent 164 ms after the word recognition point. Our study indicates an activation of memory traces for tonal language words.

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