Category Archives: speech perception

Reading Lips, Knowing Chinese?

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 or leave message here.


Your Chinese better than David Cameron? Sure.

It might be too early to predict that Mandarin, the official Chinese language, will surpass English and dominate the world as the common language in future. But it is definitely clear that the population of Chinese speakers (1,197 millions including Mandarin and the other Chinese dialects, 848 millions who speak Mandarin) is massively larger than the population of English speakers (335 millions), even taking the number of Indian English speakers into account.

Recently Mr David Cameron and Mr. Mark Zuckerberg have also joined in this language family.

Through his Chinese New Year message, Prime Minister passed the blessing of a Fire Monkey Year. He stressed this was a fire monkey year, which is unusual and profound understanding on Chinese zodiac (Shēngxiào).

According to the Chinese zodiac, Chinese symbolise each year with one animal and a total of 12 animals represents a 12-year mathematical cycle. Zodiac originates from the similar concept in western astrology and means “circle of animals”. Zodiac still remains popular in several East Asian countries including China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Thailand and Mongolia.

In addition, Chinese zodiac integrates Chinese traditional theory of “Five Elements”, which attributes the world into Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. The circle of years could be reflected by the circle of five elements. 2016 is a year of Fire according to Chinese calendar. This is why Mr. Cameron said it was a Fire Monkey Year.

Better than our Prime Minister, Mr. Zuckerberg showed his fluent Mandarin with his wife, Mrs. Priscilla Chan, a Chinese-descent Vietnamese, who seems to preserve her née name after marriage as Chinese do today, and their new-born daughter Chen Ming Yu.


Mr. Zuckerberg gave a perfect explanation on his girl’s name in their new year greeting video.


In China, the monkey is more remembered as the Monkey King (the right in Beijing Opera) from Chinese classic masterpiece Journey to the West, which can be regarded as the mixture of The Lord of Rings and The Pilgrim’s Progress. BBC once created one innovative and fascinating symbol of the Monkey King (the left) for 2008 Beijing Olympic Game. Here an authentic Monkey King (the middle in Chinese cartoon) can be seen in the famous Chinese cartoon Havoc in Heaven (1964).

Happy New Year!

Xīn(新) Nián (年)  Kuài (快) Lè (乐) (Or try an easier Wade–Giles system: Hsīn Nién K`uài Lè)

Be careful your tones and welcome to our Brown Bag Meeting this Wednesday (12:00, TA131) where we will report a study on Chinese lexical tone.

Effects of Cognitive Load on Speech Perception

Invited by Dr Zeng, Prof Sven Mattys (University of York) gave a talk on Effects of Cognitive Load on Speech Perception on 23rd April, in Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University.


Prof Sven Mattys’ major is in experimental psycholinguistics. He is particularly interested in the perceptual, cognitive, and physiological mechanisms underlying speech recognition.

italktone_23042015_01“Although the populations I have investigated so far (normal-hearing adults, hearing-impaired adults, and infants) vary widely in their quantitative and qualitative exposure to the spoken language, a number of research questions apply to all of them: How are novel spoken words learned? What is the time-course of speech processing? How is speech segmentation carried out? How are words represented in the lexicon?”



After the talk, Dr Xun He and Dr Zeng hosted Prof Mattys in a Japanese restaurant and had a nice chatting about psychology of language and EEG.