This study examined the differences in tone 3 productions between advanced Korean learners and native speakers of Mandarin by implementing three analyses: acoustic, frequency, and distance metric analyses. Based on the acoustic analyses, the advanced learners exerted more articulatory effort in producing tone 3, regardless of the syllable positions within disyllabic words. Compared to the native speakers, the production of tone 3 by the learners was longer in duration, more intense, and displayed steeper falling and rising pitch movements—these are all salient cues for tone 3 as a dipping pitch contour. The native speakers, however, economized articulatory effort in their tone 3 productions. They did not lower the pitch target of tone 3, nor did they employ the steep falling and rising pitch movements to the same extent as the advanced learners. According to the frequency analyses, the native speakers yielded more variants of half-T3 than the advanced learners in both syllables of the disyllabic words. Finally, the distance metric analyses revealed that the advanced learners’ pitch contours were more different from those of the native speakers in syllable 2 than in syllable 1. Consistent with previous work, our results emphasize that the learners’ dipping pitch contour for tone 3 stems from the widespread second language pedagogy of Mandarin tones, where tone 3 is predominately described as a dipping tone. Learners, therefore, must understand and become competent using varied tone 3 patterns before attaining native-like or near-native competence.
4. Discussion and conclusion