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Neural correlates of indicators of sound change in Cantonese: evidence from cortical and subcortical processes

Maggu, A. R., Liu, F., Antoniou, M. and Wong, P. (2016) Neural correlates of indicators of sound change in Cantonese: evidence from cortical and subcortical processes. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10. 652. ISSN 1662-5161

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00652


Across time, languages undergo changes in phonetic, syntactic and semantic dimensions. Social, cognitive and cultural factors contribute to sound change, a phenomenon in which the phonetics of a language undergo changes over time. Individuals who misperceive and produce speech in a slightly divergent manner (called innovators) contribute to variability in the society, eventually leading to sound change. However, the cause of variability in these individuals is still unknown. In this study, we examined whether such misperceptions are represented in neural processes of the auditory system. We investigated behavioral, subcortical (via FFR), and cortical (via P300) manifestations of sound change processing in Cantonese, a Chinese language in which several lexical tones are merging. Across the merging categories, we observed a similar gradation of speech perception abilities in both behavior and the brain (subcortical and cortical processes). Further, we also found that behavioral evidence of tone merging correlated with subjects’ encoding at the subcortical and cortical levels. These findings indicate that tone-merger categories, that are indicators of sound change in Cantonese, are represented neurophysiologically with high fidelity. Using our results, we speculate that innovators encode speech in a slightly deviant neurophysiological manner, and thus produce speech divergently that eventually spreads across the community and contributes to sound change.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:68384


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