This study explores the development of mismatch responses (MMRs) to Mandarin lexical tone changes in infants at 12, 18, and 24 months of age using the multi-deviant oddball paradigm with the low dipping Tone 3 (T3) as the standard, the high level Tone 1 (T1) as the large, and the high rising Tone 2 (T2) as the small deviant. The results show that the large acoustic change between T1/T3 elicited mismatch negativity (MMN) in all three age groups. The small acoustic change between T2/T3 elicited a positive mismatch response (P-MMR) at 12 and 18 months of age, but no MMR was found to the T2/T3 change at 24 months. The coexistence of MMN and P-MMR in the same age group implies that different mechanisms were used for discriminating large and small deviants. Infants were able to detect the T1/T3 change automatically and showed adult-like MMN as early as 6 months of age. However, the detection of the T2/T3 change remains effortful in infants under 24 months of age. These findings support the notion that MMN and P-MMR may be used to index the maturation of speech perception.
Frontiers in Psychology, 9, Article 448 PMID: 29692746