15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003


Are Tones Phones?

Denis Burnham (1), Chris Davis (2), Jeesun Kim (2), Zeina Issa (1), Helen Tam (1), Benjawan Kasisopa (3), Prajaree Tantong (3), Colin Schoknecht (1), Caroline Jones (1), Sudaporn Luksaneeyanawin (3)

(1) University of Western Sydney, Australia
(2) University of Melbourne, Australia
(3) Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Using an 'odd one out' task these studies investigate phonological awareness - awareness of phonemes as independent speech units, and also "tonological awareness" using Central Thai, a tonal language with five tones. In Experiment 1 Thai children and Australian English children (Kindergarten, Year 2, 4, 6), and adults are tested and it is found that children and adults perform better on phonological than tonological awareness, and that tonological awareness is a function of Thais' education level. Experiment 2 with good and poor reader Thai children shows that good readers are better at both tasks, and confirms the advantage for phonological over tonological awareness, even for good readers. The psychological equivalence of phonemes and tonemes is discussed.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Burnham, Denis / Davis, Chris / Kim, Jeesun / Issa, Zeina / Tam, Helen / Kasisopa, Benjawan / Tantong, Prajaree / Schoknecht, Colin / Jones, Caroline / Luksaneeyanawin, Sudaporn (2003): "Are tones phones?", In ICPhS-15, 897-900.