Mandarin speakers' production of English and Mandarin post-vocalic nasals: An acoustic approach




Li, Ya

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The present study adopts an acoustic approach to analyze Mandarin Chinese speakers’ production of English and Mandarin alveolar and velar nasal codas /n, ŋ/ in different preceding vowel contexts. Its purposes are to explore the interrelationship between nasal codas and the preceding vowels in both L1 (First Language) and L2 (Second language) production and to identify and explain similarities and differences between the L1 and L2 production. Specifically, 20 native Mandarin Chinese speakers performed a word-list reading task involving 22 English and Mandarin test words with three types of rimes, VN (Vn or Vŋ, i.e., a monophthong vowel followed by /n/ or /ŋ/), VGn (a diphthong vowel followed by /n/), and VG (a diphthong vowel). In total, 88 tokens (22 words x 4 repetitions) were collected for each speaker, and all tokens were measured by using the phonetic software, Praat. First, mean F1-F0 and F3-F2 (differences between the first and fundamental formant frequencies and between the third and second formant frequencies) over the first and the second half of vowel duration were measured to estimate vowel height/backness changes over the duration. Also, N1/N2/N3 (the first, second, and third nasal formants) at the midpoint of nasal murmur duration and the band energy difference (∆dB) between 0-525 Hz and 525-1265Hz bands over the nasal murmur duration were calculated to predict the alveolar or velar nasal place. Last, the vowel and nasal murmur duration (V_D & N_D) in each token were used to indicate the degree of vowel-nasal coupling. Two-tailed paired-wise t-tests and repeated measures one-way ANOVA tests were used to examine the statistical significance of the above acoustic measurements across test words. The main results show that there is a strong vowel-nasal coarticulation effect in Mandarin VN and English VGn production but not in English VN production; specifically, nasal place in Mandarin VN and English VGn rimes covaries with vowel quality change over the duration. In contrast, there is a significant durational difference among English VN rimes but not among Mandarin VN and English VGn rimes; specifically, Vŋ rimes are longer than Vn rimes in English. The strong vowel-nasal coarticulation effect in the Mandarin VN and English VGn production and the significant durational difference in the English VN production can be both related to rhythmic factors.



nasals, acoustics, L2 speech, Mandarin