Comparison of Voice F0 Responses to Pitch-Shifted Auditory
Feedback in Mandarin and English Speech

J Bauer, K Brooks, Y Xu, C Larson


Mandarin speakers rely on voice fundamental frequency (F0) within a syllable to linguistically distinguish words that are otherwise phonologically identical, whereas English speakers use voice F0 across syllables suprasegmentally. Given the strong linguistic importance placed on voice F0 in Mandarin, we hypothesized that Mandarin speakers would be more sensitive to altered pitch feedback compared to English speakers. To test this theory, voice F0 responses to pitch-shifted auditory feedback were elicited in six Mandarin and fourteen English subjects during speech, and voice F0 response parameters were measured as an index of voice auditory feedback sensitivity.  Contrary to our hypothesis, response magnitudes were similar in English and Mandarin (60 - 80 cents). However, responses in both English and Mandarin speech were larger than responses during sustained vowel productions. Thus, both languages appear to be equally sensitive to altered pitch feedback regardless of the role F0 plays in speech (linguistic versus suprasegmental).  The larger responses in speech compared to sustained vowels suggests this reflexive system may be modulated according to vocal task. The limitation of response magnitudes to ~80 cents may further suggest an upper limit of the ability of the system to respond to altered pitch feedback.