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Is Heritage Phonology Conservative?: Evidence from Toronto Heritage Cantonese

Tse, Holman (2015) Is Heritage Phonology Conservative?: Evidence from Toronto Heritage Cantonese. In: New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 44), 24 October 2015 - 24 October 2015, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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Some researchers and language teachers have observed that HL (Heritage Language) speakers sound “native-like” in their phonology (Polinsky and Kagan 2007) in contrast to their “incomplete acquisition” of morpho-syntactic features (Montrul 2008). Yet, these impressions of conservatism in phonology have largely been anecdotal. Only a handful of studies have specifically examined HL vowel systems using acoustic data (cf. Godson 2003 for Western Armenian; Chang et al. 2011 for Mandarin; Ronquest 2013 for Spanish). In this talk, I present data from a study of intergenerational (GEN 1 vs. GEN 2) vowel change in Toronto Heritage Cantonese to address the question of conservatism in HL phonology. Can we find evidence for conservatism through acoustic analysis of vowels in sociolinguistic interview data? The data examined comes from the Heritage Language Variation and Change (HLVC) in Toronto Project (Nagy 2011), which includes recorded and transcribed hour-long sociolinguistic interviews and responses to an Ethnic Orientation Questionnaire (EOQ). The F1 and F2 of 75 vowel tokens were measured and normalized across two phonetic contexts (pre-velar-coda and open-syllable) for each of four vowel categories (/i:/, /u:/, /ɛ:/, and /ɔ:/) from each of 17 speakers (1,020 vowel tokens). Rbrul (Johnson 2009) was used to run mixed effects models with phonetic context, generational background, sex, age, and Ethnic Orientation (EO) continuum scores (Nagy et al. 2014) as independent variables to model variation in the continuous dependent variables F1 and (in separate analyses) F2. This presentation will focus on the following results: (1) There is a significant lowering effect (higher F1) of /i:/ and /uː/ in pre-velar context (compared to open syllables) across the speech community (p


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tse, Holmanhbt3@pitt.eduHBT30000-0002-2398-5776
Date: 24 October 2015
Date Type: Publication
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Event Title: New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 44)
Event Dates: 24 October 2015 - 24 October 2015
Event Type: Conference
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Refereed: Yes
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2015 15:55
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2019 05:55


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