Joint with Dr Guoxing Yu (University of Bristol), Dr Zeng has been recently funded by British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant. The grant will support a one-year project of Audiovisual Lexical Tone Perception: Evidence from Eye-tracking Studies.
As the principle investigator, Dr Zeng mainly works in speech perception, in particular lexical tones. Lexical tones widely exist in many Asian and African languages. Indeed the tonal languages take about 70% of languages in the world. Mandarin is a typical tonal language with four lexical tones. Different from the segments of consonants and vowels, lexical tones are defined as suprasegmental or prosodic information in speech. There are the other members in the big supreasegemtnal family including pitch-accent in Japanese and Korean, stress in English and vowel harmony in Turkic languages.
In visual speech, previous findings have revealed apparent visual cues related to consonants and vowels. For example, to pronounce a bilabial consonant [b], it is articulated by both lips and a lip-smack would be clearly and easily seen. The coming project will investigate whether native Chinese speakers employ any dynamic facial information, especially lips movement, to perceive and recognise Mandarin lexical tones. Such study will be tested in native English speakers as well. Eye-tracking technology is used in the studies and help us to identify a listener’s pattern or strategies to detect and process any visual cues.
Dr Guoxing Yu, a Reader from University of Bristol, is an expert in language testing and assessment. He is interested in comparing native and non-native speakers to process a language, whatever English or Mandarin. In addition, he has a long-term interest in language acquisition in the second generation of overseas Chinese. He suggested “include any heritage users of Chinese in our sample of 30 Chinese speakers”.
Dr Yu recommended this following clip from YouTube
If you want to know further details about this project or work as a RA, please contact Dr Zeng by firstname.lastname@example.org or leave message here.