The present study explores the use of extrinsic context in perceptual normalization for the purpose of identifying lexical tones in Cantonese. In each of four experiments, listeners were presented with a target word embedded in a semantically neutral sentential context. The target word was produced with a mid level tone and it was never modified throughout the study, but on any given trial the fundamental frequency of part or all of the context sentence was raised or lowered to varying degrees. The effect of perceptual normalization of tone was quantified as the proportion of non-mid level responses given in F0-shifted contexts. Results showed that listeners' tonal judgments (i) were proportional to the degree of frequency shift, (ii) were not affected by non-pitch-related differences in talker, (iii) and were affected by the frequency of both the preceding and following context, although (iv) following context affected tonal decisions more strongly than did preceding context. These findings suggest that perceptual normalization of lexical tone may involve a "moving window" or "running average" type of mechanism, that selectively weights more recent pitch information over older information, but does not depend on the perception of a single voice.
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