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Perception of English intonation by English, Spanish, and Chinese listeners. Native language affects the perception of segmental phonetic structure, of stress, and of semantic and pragmatic effects of intonation. Similarly, native language might influence the perception of similarities and differences among intonation contours. To test this hypothesis, a cross-language experiment was conducted. An English utterance was resynthesized with seven falling and four rising intonation contours. English, Iberian Spanish, and Chinese listeners then rated each pair of nonidentical stimuli for degree of difference. Multidimensional scaling of the results supported the hypothesis. The three groups of listeners produced statistically different perceptual configurations for the falling contours. All groups, however, perceptually separated the falling from the rising contours. This result suggested that the perception of intonation begins with the activation of universal auditory mechanisms that process the direction of relatively slow frequency modulations. A second experiment therefore employed frequency-modulated sine waves that duplicated the fundamental frequency contours of the speech stimuli. New groups of English, Spanish, and Chinese subjects yielded no cross-language differences between the perceptual configurations for these nonspeech stimuli. The perception of similarities and differences among intonation contours calls upon universal auditory mechanisms whose output is molded by experience with one's native language. ls