Phonological encoding in Tongan: An experimental investigation

Katsuo Tamaoka, Jingyi Zhang, Masatoshi Koizumi, Rinus G. Verdonschot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Language production
  • Tongan
  • phonological encoding
  • picture–word naming
  • prosodification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


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