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Leslie Lee

Leslie Lee of U.C. San Diego will speak at the UCSD Linguistics Department Colloquium on May 26, 2010, at 2:00 pm in AP&M 4301.

Acoustic Analysis of the Tonal System of Singapore Mandarin

In this talk, I present an acoustic analysis of the tonal system of Singapore Mandarin, a little studied variety, and compare the results to those of Beijing and Taiwan. The data were elicited from 16 speakers of Singapore Mandarin, a sample designed to take sociolinguistic variation and gender into consideration. The results show a number of differences between Singapore Mandarin and the other varieties, both in terms of tonal contour and duration. The biggest difference concerns tone 2, which in Singapore Mandarin is marked by a mid-low level stretch not found in other varieties. The analysis also showed differences relating to gender and language background, suggesting that tonal realisation can be used for indexical purposes, in this case, to indicate gender and the role of Mandarin in a speaker's repertoire. Overall, these results support those of previous studies in showing that phonologically identical tonal systems can exhibit dialectal variation in realisation. In addition, the intra-dialectal variation strongly suggests that taking social variation into account, especially in a multilingual context like Singapore, is essential for the adequate description and understanding of grammatical systems, including tone.