Prosodic transfer: A comparison study of F0 patterns in L2 English by Chinese speakers

Author(s): Hongwei Ding, Rüdiger Hoffmann and Daniel Hirst


A comparison was made among the fundamental frequency (F0) patterns of continuous speech in English, Mandarin Chinese and L2 English produced by Chinese speakers. Ten adult native Chinese speakers were asked to read narrative text written in both English and Chinese. The comparative analysis of 300 sentences was performed in the following aspects: F0 mean, pitch range, pitch change rate and pitch change amount. It is found that in terms of both pitch range on the phoneme level and pitch change amount on the utterance level, L2 English speech by Chinese subjects displayed a significantly larger value than the English speech by native speakers. Moreover, the same Chinese subjects demonstrated still a larger value in these two pitch-related variables in their Chinese speech. The dynamic characteristic of L2 English can be attributed to the negative transfer of L1 Chinese. The findings can shed some light on the understanding of the difference in F0 patterns between a tone language and an intonation language, and can also provide some implications for L2 speech learning.