A preliminary study on Cantonese tone production by young heritage speakers

Chen Lan, Peggy Mok


This study investigated the production of six Cantonese tones by heritage language (HL) children in Vancouver, Canada. Twenty-five Cantonese heritage speakers (HSs) aged between 2;1 and 6;0 participated in the production experiment. Data collected from children in Hong Kong (homeland) at the same ages and native speakers aged between 15;09 and 16;07 were included for analysis. Results showed that HSs have not fully acquired all six lexical tones, in particular the tonal contrasts, by 6;0. HL children’s overall pattern of the pitch contours was similar to that of homeland children, but with smaller tonal distinctions between similar tone pairs relative to reference speakers. An ongoing tone merging phenomenon appeared among the observed HL children. More interestingly, a “high-low” template, resembling the pitch pattern of English trochaic words, was found in the production of two HL children respectively at age 3;1 and 5;0. These findings are consistent with the idea that language variation exists in the acquisition of HL. Furthermore, the onset of schooling leads to the shift in language dominance from the HL to the majority language, which influences the production of HL.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-22

Cite as: Lan, C., Mok, P. (2020) A preliminary study on Cantonese tone production by young heritage speakers. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 106-110, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-22.


@inproceedings{Lan2020,
  author={Chen Lan and Peggy Mok},
  title={{A preliminary study on Cantonese tone production by young heritage speakers}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={106--110},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-22},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-22}
}