Mandarin-speaking children's speech recognition: Developmental changes in the influences of semantic context and F0 contours

Hong Zhou, Yu Li, Meng Liang, Connie Qun Guan, Linjun Zhang, Hua Shu, Yang Zhang

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The goal of this developmental speech perception study was to assess whether and how age group modulated the influences of high-level semantic context and low-level fundamental frequency (F0) contours on the recognition of Mandarin speech by elementary and middle-school-aged children in quiet and interference backgrounds. The results revealed different patterns for semantic and F0 information. One the one hand, age group modulated significantly the use of F0 contours, indicating that elementary school children relied more on natural F0 contours than middle school children during Mandarin speech recognition. On the other hand, there was no significant modulation effect of age group on semantic context, indicating that children of both age groups used semantic context to assist speech recognition to a similar extent. Furthermore, the significant modulation effect of age group on the interaction between F0 contours and semantic context revealed that younger children could not make better use of semantic context in recognizing speech with flat F0 contours compared with natural F0 contours, while older children could benefit from semantic context even when natural F0 contours were altered, thus confirming the important role of F0 contours in Mandarin speech recognition by elementary school children. The developmental changes in the effects of high-level semantic and low-level F0 information on speech recognition might reflect the differences in auditory and cognitive resources associated with processing of the two types of information in speech perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1090
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - Jun 28 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Open Research Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning (CNLYB1607) to LZ, by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2014CB846103), Natural Science Foundation of China (81461130018, 31671126, 31611130107) and Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission (Z151100003915122) to HS, and in part from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P01HD001994) to Haskins Laboratories.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Zhou, Li, Liang, Guan, Zhang, Shu and Zhang.


  • Children
  • Fundamental frequency contours
  • Interfering speech
  • Semantic context
  • Speech recognition


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