LINGUIST List 23.5086

Wed Dec 05 2012

Diss: Phonetics/ Chinese, Mandarin: Chang: 'Variability in Cross-dialectal Production and Perception of Contrasting Phonemes...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>



Date: 05-Dec-2012
From: YUNG-HSIANG CHANG <shawn914gmail.com>
Subject: Variability in Cross-dialectal Production and Perception of Contrasting Phonemes: The case of the alveolar-retroflex contrast in Beijing and Taiwan Mandarin
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Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Program: Department of Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2012

Author: Yung-Hsiang Chang

Dissertation Title: Variability in Cross-dialectal Production and Perception of Contrasting Phonemes: The case of the alveolar-retroflex contrast in Beijing and Taiwan Mandarin

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)
Dissertation Director:
Chilin Shih
Dissertation Abstract:

The alveolar-retroflex contrast is a critical feature in Mandarin and is oftenused to differentiate Beijing Mandarin from other dialects of Mandarin likeTaiwan Mandarin. While a number of linguistic and sociolinguistic factorshave been found to affect the alveolar-retroflex contrast, leading to variationin Taiwan Mandarin, a consistent alveolar-retroflex distinction is described forBeijing Mandarin in the literature on Mandarin phonology. With a series ofmap tasks, this dissertation examines whether the production of alveolar-
retroflex contrast in both dialects is subject to the effects of vowel contextand focal prominence. With a discrimination task and a goodness rating task,the categorical and gradient modes of alveolar-retroflex perception in differentvowel contexts are investigated for listeners of both dialects. Results of theproduction study indicate that the acoustic characterization of Beijing vs.Taiwan Mandarin alveolar-retroflex contrast varies by vowel and by how eachcontrasting phoneme is realized in a particular vowel context. Focalprominence is found to result in longer syllable durations but not increasedspectral distinctiveness between the alveolar and retroflex sibilants. Thefindings are discussed with respect to enhancement theory. The perceptionstudy found that Beijing and Taiwan listeners have different perceptualboundaries along the acoustic continuum, with a lower cutoff fricationfrequency required for the retroflex percepts for Beijing listeners. Listeners’alveolar-retroflex boundaries shift to lower frequencies in the rounded vowelcontext to normalize for vowel coarticulatory effects. Discrepant within-
category sensitivity was found in that while both Beijing and Taiwan listenersperceive all retroflex variants as equally good, Beijing listeners consider theendpoint variant of the alveolar as the best category exemplar. The findingsare discussed within the frameworks of quantal theory and exemplar theoryas well as with respect to the hyperspace effect in perception. Together, theresults show that linguistic (i.e., vowel context) and sociolinguistic (i.e.,dialect) factors collectively and variably affect the production and perceptionof the Mandarin alveolar-retroflex contrast.



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