Second Language Processing

1. L2 Processing of Focus in Cantonese-speaking and Dutch-speaking Learners of English

This is my PhD project, supervised by Virginia Yip. The Dutch part was carried out at UiL OTS, Utrecht University, in collaboration with Aoju Chen and Iris Mulders.

About the study

      • The realization of focus is language specific: prosody is the primary device to encode focus in Dutch and English, whereas it is less important than morphosyntax and word order in marking focus in Cantonese. This study investigated how L2 learners use prosody to interpret focus in online processing and offline comprehension, through a cross-linguistic comparison between Cantonese learners of English in Hong Kong and Dutch learners of English in the Netherlands.
      • Three experiments were conducted: (1) the 'visual-world' eye-tracking experiment examined L2 learners’ temporal course of prosodic focus processing; (2) the 'make-sense' judgement experiment investigated the focus-to-prosody mapping in L2 comprehension; (3) the acoustic perception test L2 learners' sensitivity to prosodic prominence in speech perception.

We have found:

      • Native speaker of English are able to integrate prosodic information to process and interpret focus, providing further evidence for fast and incremental prosodic focus processing in L1.
      • The eye movements data showed non-native like processing in Cantonese learners and Dutch learners, indicating a general L2 processing effect in online processing.
      • Results from the judgement experiment showed native-like performance in Dutch learners but not in Cantonese learners, suggesting L1 effects on L2 offline interpretation.
      • Both Cantonese learners and Dutch learners showed native-like sensitivity to prosodic prominence in L2 perception.

Bilingual First Language Acquisition

1. Acquisition of Right-dislocation in Cantonese-English Bilingual Children

This study is part of my MPhil thesis and has been published in First Language.

About the study

      • This corpus-based study investigates cross-linguistic influence in the acquisition of right-dislocation by Cantonese–English bilingual children. It aims to test Hulk and Müller’s (2000) hypothesis and contribute to the ongoing discussion about the conditions for and directionality of cross-linguistic influence in bilingual first language acquisition.
      • Right-dislocation is a syntax-pragmatics interface phenomenon, being rare in English (e.g., It's not bad, that cake.) but prevalent in Cantonese (e.g., 幾好喎, 個蛋糕).

I have found:

      • Longitudinal data reveal qualitative and quantitative differences between bilingual and monolingual children in the development of right-dislocation in English and Cantonese.
      • While right-dislocation lies at the syntax–pragmatics interface, both delay and acceleration are observed in bilingual development.
      • In general the findings support Hulk and Müller’s hypothesis for cross-linguistic influence in bilingual first language acquisition, but the bidirectional influence observed is not predicted by their formulation of the hypothesis.
      • Language dominance may influence the directionality of cross-linguistic influence.

2. Use of Prosody in the Comprehension of Focus

This undergoing project examines Cantonese-English bilingual children' use of prosody in comprehending focus.

Prosodic Morphology in Ningbo Chinese

As a native speaker of Ningbo Chinese (寧波話), I hope that my research might draw attention to the critical loss of Ningobo Chinese and the need to preserve and promote other Chinese dialects.

1. Adjective Reduplication in Ningbo Chinese

About study

      • This study presents four patterns of adjective reduplication in Ningbo Chinese and investigates the derivation of adjective reduplication with a prosodic morphology account.

I have found:

      • The base of adjective reduplication in Ningbo Chinese can be either one or two syllables. To derive the four types of adjective reduplication, prosodic circumscription accesses to either the left or right edge of the base.
      • AAB type of adjective reduplication is a prevalent pattern in Ningbo Chinese while absent in Mandarin Chinese. The present study proposes that the pattern of AAB reduplication is overt in Ningbo Chinese while covert in Mandarin Chinese.