Prosodic focus marking in Bai-Mandarin sequential bilinguals' Mandarin

Author(s): Zenghui Liu, Aoju Chen and Hans Van de Velde

Abstract

This study investigates the prosodic marking of focus in sequential bilinguals speaking Bai as their first and Mandarin Chinese as their second language. Mandarin SVO sentences with varying information structure were elicited through a picture-matching task. The participants were primary school teachers in a Bai speaking community. Our data shows that the Bai-Mandarin sequential bilinguals lengthen the duration of the focal constituents in comparison to non-focal constituents in their Mandarin. In addition, they also expand the pitch range for distinguishing focal constituents from post-focal constituents. However, focus types differing in size and contrastivity are not distinguished by using duration or pitch. The present study thus provides evidence that sequential bilinguals mark focus prosodically in their L2 Mandarin, although their use of pitch as a prosodic cue for marking focus is less systematic in comparison to monolingual speakers of Mandarin.

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