The Comparative Fallacy in Tone Perception Studies

Main Article Content

Yeu-Ting Liu


During the past few decades, linguists have been striving to investigate language-specific phenomena in addition to their efforts to construct a model of language processing in general. Psycholinguistic studies have been following the same trends by employing a comparative perspective in research on spoken-language processing by human listeners. The aim of this practice is to provide a unified account pertaining to all human listeners, and is therefore valid irrespective of the language which is listened to. It is true that universal characteristics of language processing can only be accurately observed cross-linguistically. However, Bley-Vroman (1983) warned that work aimed at classifying the development or the systematicity of learners’ languages can be seriously sidetracked by a comparative approach or a reliance on the target language (TL) structure. Bley-Vroman contended that the interlanguage (IL) system “is worthy of study in its own right, and should not be taken just as a degenerate form of the target system” (p. 4).

Article Details