Tone merger in Guangzhou Cantonese

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Tone merger in Guangzhou Cantonese

 

Author: Ou, Jinghua
Title: Tone merger in Guangzhou Cantonese
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2012
Subject: Cantonese dialects -- China -- Guangzhou -- Phonology.
Cantonese dialects -- China -- Guangzhou -- Pronunciation.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: xiv, 95 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2551282
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/6794
Abstract: Cantonese stands out from other Chinese dialects by having a complex tonal system. However, this complex tonal system has been reported to be in the process of merging. Although there has been a number of studies of the tone merger phenomenon in Hong Kong Cantonese (HKC), few studies have been conducted for Guangzhou Cantonese (GZC). Thus, this study conducted a comprehensive investigation into the variations and mergers of tones in contemporary GZC. Three experimental tasks, discrimination, identification and production, were administered to 75 subjects in three different age groups: young adults (20-25 yrs old); middle-aged (35-45 yrs old) and senior (over 50 yrs old). Forty-eight real syllables, generated by eight CV(C) roots, were used in all three tasks. An acoustic study was conducted to follow up the results of the production task. In the discrimination task, AX paradigm was used to examine whether native GZC speakers can still contrast all the six tones in perception. The overall results showed that T3/T6 and T4/T6 were the two most readily confused pairs. However, the discrimination ability differed among the three age groups. The identification task was administered to investigate the directions of tone mergers attested in the discrimination task. The stimuli were presented aurally to the participants who were asked to select a character from a list of six to represent the perceived syllable properly. Overall, the identification accuracy of T6 was significantly lower than those of the other tones. T6 was more often identified as T3 and also as T4. The error patterns differed among the three age groups. In the production task, the stimuli were embedded into two sentence carriers and read aloud by the participants in order to investigate the production of the six tones. Overall results demonstrated that the production accuracies of T6 and T5 were significantly lower than those of the other tones and these two tones were mainly produced as T3. In addition, the accuracy of T3 was significantly low in the middle-aged group, whereas that of T2 and T3 were significantly low in the young adult group. As for the direction of errors, T3 was found to be produced as T6 and T2 as T5. In all, two types of merger were identified: 1) T3/T6, a full-merger; and 2) T4/T6, a near-merger. The confusion between T3 and T5 was proposed as a case of alternative character readings. The acoustic study was conducted on the T3/T6 full-merger to examine the phonetic realizations of the new level tone and to better understand the mechanism of this merger. The results showed that the two level tones have been merged into one category and realized as a mid-level tone. Also, our results suggested that different mechanisms of tone merger were adopted by different age groups. The present study provided supporting evidence that tone merger is on-going in contemporary GZC. Tone mergers in the two varieties of Cantonese (HKC vs. GZC) were compared and implications for Cantonese as a whole were discussed.

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