Phonological encoding in Tongan: An experimental investigation

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2023 Oct;76(10):2226-2231. doi: 10.1177/17470218221138770. Epub 2022 Dec 1.


This study is the first to report chronometric evidence on Tongan language production. It has been speculated that the mora plays an important role during Tongan phonological encoding. A mora follows the (C)V form, so /a/ and /ka/ (but not /k/) denote a mora in Tongan. Using a picture-word naming paradigm, Tongan native speakers named pictures containing superimposed non-word distractors. This task has been used before in Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese to investigate the initially selected unit during phonological encoding (IPU). Compared with control distractors, both onset and mora overlapping distractors resulted in faster naming latencies. Several alternative explanations for the pattern of results-proficiency in English, knowledge of Latin script, and downstream effects-are discussed. However, we conclude that Tongan phonological encoding likely natively uses the phoneme, and not the mora, as the IPU.

Keywords: Language production; Tongan; phonological encoding; picture–word naming; prosodification.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Phonetics*
  • Speech
  • Tonga