On the Learnability of Nuclear and Prenuclear Accents ― Using Taiwan Mandarin Learners of English as an Example

Sherry Chien, Janice Fon


This study examined the phonological choice and the phonetic implementation of nuclear and prenuclear accents in L2 English among Taiwan Mandarin learners. Twenty-two advanced Mandarin EFL learners and 22 native American English speakers read 21 English monosyllabic stimuli embedded in a declarative carrier sentence. The EFL learners also read an additional list of 21 sentences in which phonotactically-matched Mandarin stimuli were embedded. Results showed that there is little difference between the native and nonnative speakers with regards to the nuclear accent. The main difference lies in the prenuclear accent. L2 English speakers generally had a smaller tonal inventory at their disposal, and were less flexible in their placement of prenuclear accents compared to their native counterparts. As for text-tune alignment, L2 speakers showed deviations of L+H* tone in a gender-dependent fashion, while their alignment of the H* tone was fairly comparable. This implies that nuclear accents are easier to acquire for L2 learners possibly due to their prominent status, while prenuclear accents pose a problem for even advanced learners. Analyses on Mandarin data showed that the difficulty might stem genuinely from challenges in L2 learning, and could not be easily explained away by a direct negative transfer from Mandarin.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-181

Cite as: Chien, S., Fon, J. (2020) On the Learnability of Nuclear and Prenuclear Accents ― Using Taiwan Mandarin Learners of English as an Example. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 886-889, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-181.


@inproceedings{Chien2020,
  author={Sherry Chien and Janice Fon},
  title={{On the Learnability of Nuclear and Prenuclear Accents ― Using Taiwan Mandarin Learners of English as an Example}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={886--889},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-181},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-181}
}