Taiwan Mandarin (TM) is an official and dominant language in Taiwan spoken over the entire island whereas Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM) is a non-official and local substratum language. Young Mandarin-Min bilinguals, therefore, often have a limited exposure to TSM, which may result in imperfect learning of the language. Focusing on weak phonetic cues to unreleased final stops, this thesis explored imperfect acquisition of the unreleased final stops by bilingual speakers. To draw a fuller picture of the patterns of final stop place contrasts, two perception and one production experiments were carried out.
Thirty-eight Mandarin-Min bilingual listeners (20 TSM-weak and 18 TSM-fluent) and 15 Korean listeners participated in a 3-AFC identification experiment. Korean speakers were included as a baseline group as they were shown to perform well on the unreleased final stop identification through positive L1 transfer. The stimuli were made based on TSM unreleased final stops. Korean listeners showed a near ceiling performance whereas TSM-fluent listeners were similar to TSM-weak listeners. Next, thirty-eight Mandarin-Min bilingual listeners (21 TSM-weak and 17 TSM-fluent) and 18 Korean listeners participated in an AXB discrimination task. Consistent with the results of the identification task, Korean listeners, again, performed with a high accuracy, indicating that the extensive experience with the final stops in their native language has led to their good sensitivity to stop places. In this task, TSM-fluent listeners performed better than TSM-weak listeners, which can be attributed to their greater exposure to TSM; the experience with TSM has helped enhance their sensitivity to vowel transitions for stop place contrasts. Taken together, the results showed that the place contrasts of the finals are not completely lost by the Mandarin-Min bilinguals, however, TSM was not transmitted successfully across generations, leading to imperfect acquisition.
A production study was carried out to explore how Mandarin-Min bilinguals implement the final stops in their production. Twenty-one TSM-fluent speakers who participated in the identification and/or the discrimination task have participated in the production task. The results showed that places of articulation modulate specific patterns of stop production; /p/ was produced with the highest accuracy rate across vowel contexts, /t/ was particularly prone to deletion and substitution, and /k/ was well preserved before /i/ but was subject to such changes before /a/. Furthermore, the correlation between production and perception was positive and statistically significant, indicating that poor perception is a likely source of poor production. The findings of this study contribute synchronic evidence for a potential sound change, namely the loss of stop place contrasts, arising from imperfect learning of TSM by young bilingual speakers.
This study examined the loss of final stop place contrasts among young Mandarin-Min bilingual speakers in Taiwan. Taiwan Mandarin (TM) is an official and dominant language in Taiwan spoken over the entire island whereas Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM) is a non-official and local substratum language. Young bilingual speakers, therefore, often have a limited exposure to TSM, which may result in imperfect learning of the language. Focusing on weak phonetic cues to unreleased final stops, we explore the patterns of imperfect acquisition of the final stops by bilingual speakers to provide synchronic evidence for the loss of final stop place contrasts.