Production of lexical tones by Southern Min-Mandarin bilinguals

Author(s): Karen Huang

Abstract

This is a preliminary study examining the tonal production of L1 Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM) speakers who are also fluent in Mandarin. Both languages have tone sandhi rules in which certain lexical tones are neutralized in non-XP-final positions. Disyllabic Mandarin and TSM words with different tonal combinations in frame sentences were examined. The results suggest that Mandarin Tone 1, Tone 3 and Tone 4 were assimilated to TSM high level, low falling and high falling tones respectively due to their surface phonetic similarity. L1 TSM speakers can apply Mandarin Tone 3 sandhi without difficulties, but the L1 sandhi rule has affected the production of Mandarin Tone 2. Mandarin Tone 2 (rising tone) was mapped to TSM rising tone (Tone 5) in phrase-final position, but not elsewhere due to the phonological constraints operated through tone sandhi. Mandarin Tone 2 at a non-XP-final position was produced with pitch contours in-between TSM rising and mid level tones, creating a “merged” category. The findings seem to indicate that aside from the phonetic properties, the L2 tones are also influenced by the L1 phonological rules such as tone sandhi in the production of non-native tones, creating context-specific tone production.

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