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Title: Native language tone attrition in Mandarin among late bilinguals
Author: Cao, Xiangjie
ISNI:       0000 0004 8501 7468
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2019
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The present study addresses whether Mandarin tones undergo attrition for late Mandarin-English bilingual speakers who live in an English-speaking environment. Mandarin in this research refers to Standard Chinese, namely Putonghua, which is the official language spoken in mainland China and is based on the Beijing dialect. Four tones in Mandarin are used to differentiate lexical items or to express morphological functions. This is one of the identifying features of Mandarin. The majority of the research on L1 attrition has been on the lexicon, morphology, and syntax (Schmid, 2002), but in recent years, attention has moved to phonetic and phonology. In Mandarin, phoneme attrition has been found among second generation Mandarin Chinese speakers in California due to L2 influence (Young et al., 2007), and among L1 Hakka Chinese speakers living in a Mandarin-speaking area for five years, tone has been found to undergo attrition (Yeh, 2011). Less is known about what happens when tone language speakers move to a non-tone language environment. Hence, to examine native language tone attrition in Mandarin, 50 participants are recruited, including 10 monolingual Mandarin speakers living in China and 40 late bilingual Mandarin-English speakers in the UK, with different lengths of residence. Perception and production at the word and sentence level are tested using listening comprehension tasks, an interview task, and a story-retelling task to elicit both formal and casual speech. The data is analysed acoustically using Praat (Boersma and Weenink, 2016), and statistical analysis is performed in SPSS. The results reveal that late bilinguals who have lived in an L2 environment for over three years showed signs of tone 3 attrition. Bilinguals with over five years of residence show stronger tone 3 attrition, which indicates that tone attrition is proportional to the length of residence. Furthermore, to study other potential language factors related to native language tone attrition, language use and language proficiency in both Mandarin and English are investigated for each participant. The results show that language exposure and actual language use are also important factors in tone attrition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available