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Title:Variability in cross-dialectal production and perception of contrasting phonemes: the case of the alveolar-retroflex contrast in Beijing and Taiwan Mandarin
Author(s):Chang, Yung-Hsiang
Director of Research:Shih, Chilin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Shih, Chilin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Allen, Jont B.; Cole, Jennifer S.; Hualde, José Ignacio; Hamann, Silke
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):production variation
perception variation
dialectal variation
phonological contrasts
Mandarin alveolar-retroflex contrast
Beijing Mandarin
Taiwan Mandarin
map tasks
vowel context effect
prosodic strengthening
categorical perception
gradient perception
Abstract:The alveolar-retroflex contrast is a critical feature in Mandarin and is often used to differentiate Beijing Mandarin from other dialects of Mandarin like Taiwan Mandarin. While a number of linguistic and sociolinguistic factors have been found to affect the alveolar-retroflex contrast, leading to variation in Taiwan Mandarin, a consistent alveolar-retroflex distinction is described for Beijing Mandarin in the literature on Mandarin phonology. With a series of map tasks, this dissertation examines whether the production of alveolar-retroflex contrast in both dialects is subject to the effects of vowel context and focal prominence. With a discrimination task and a goodness rating task, the categorical and gradient modes of alveolar-retroflex perception in different vowel contexts are investigated for listeners of both dialects. Results of the production study indicate that the acoustic characterization of Beijing vs. Taiwan Mandarin alveolar-retroflex contrast varies by vowel and by how each contrasting phoneme is realized in a particular vowel context. Focal prominence is found to result in longer syllable durations but not increased spectral distinctiveness between the alveolar and retroflex sibilants. The findings are discussed with respect to enhancement theory. The perception study found that Beijing and Taiwan listeners have different perceptual boundaries along the acoustic continuum, with a lower cutoff frication frequency required for the retroflex percepts for Beijing listeners. Listeners’ alveolar-retroflex boundaries shift to lower frequencies in the rounded vowel context to normalize for vowel coarticulatory effects. Discrepant within-category sensitivity was found in that while both Beijing and Taiwan listeners perceive all retroflex variants as equally good, Beijing listeners consider the endpoint variant of the alveolar as the best category exemplar. The findings are discussed within the frameworks of quantal theory and exemplar theory as well as with respect to the hyperspace effect in perception. Together, the results show that linguistic (i.e., vowel context) and sociolinguistic (i.e., dialect) factors collectively and variably affect the production and perception of the Mandarin alveolar-retroflex contrast.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Yung-Hsiang Chang
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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