Cantonese tone discrimination using amplitude envelope: Implications for cochlear implants

Author(s): Yining Zhou and Brett Martin


The purpose of the current study is to investigate whether amplitude envelope alone can cue the auditory discrimination of any two lexical tones in Cantonese, and to tease apart the relative contributions of three acoustic factors to lexical tone perception using amplitude envelope. Signal-correlated noise stimuli were re-synthesized based on six Cantonese lexical tones produced naturally. Thirty native listeners of Cantonese and thirty native listeners of American English were presented pairs of the stimuli, and were instructed to report whether each pair consisted of identical or different Cantonese lexical tones. The results indicated that native listeners of Cantonese discriminated each of the thirty-six lexical tone pairs in Cantonese significantly above chance and with greater accuracy and shorter reaction time than the native listeners of English. The relative contributions of three acoustic factors and one linguistic factor were delineated. These findings could potentially help improve the encoding of lexical tone contrasts for lexical tone perception in cochlear implant users, who typically have difficulties with lexical tone perception due to the limited capacity of cochlear implants in conveying F0.