Speech Prosody 2012

Shanghai, China
May 22-25, 2012

The Effect of Language Attrition on Low Level Tone in Hakka

Chia-Hsin Yeh, Chi-Jui Lu

Department of Linguistics and Languages, Michigan State University, USA

This study examines the sound change of low level tone in Hakka, and compares the change with similar tonal mergers in Cantonese and Taiwanese. The Hakka low level tone largely merges into low-falling tone, and the effect of language attrition is hypothesized as the main factor. Three perception tasks and one production task were conducted on three groups of Hakka speakers: young attriters, young speakers, and older speakers. The results show that the low level tone was the least accurate category in all tasks, and there is a significant difference between fluent speakers and attriters. In addition, young speakers confuse low level tone with low-falling tone only in the production task, but not in the perception ones. The perception-production asymmetry, however, is not found in older speakers. The findings suggest that the effect of language attrition is responsible for the tonal change, and that the phonetic and lexical factors should also be considered to account for the asymmetry.

Index Terms: first language attrition, low level tone, sound change, perception-production asymmetry, Hai-lu Hakka

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Yeh, Chia-Hsin / Lu, Chi-Jui (2012): "The effect of language attrition on low level tone in Hakka", In SP-2012, 342-345.