Cynthia Zhong Humanities and Social Science
Tonal Variation on "bu" in Mandarin-English Code-Switching
In our present world that faces an unprecedented amount of language contact, code-switching has become an increasingly common sociolinguistic phenomenon. In particular, code-switching between tonal and atonal languages poses interesting questions that are yet to be studied in tone research. In Mandarin Chinese, the negator “bu” is documented to change from a falling tone to a rising tone before another falling tone (Chao, 1965). Considering Mandarin syntax and the structure of Mandarin syllables, I propose the hypothesis that “bu” has a rising tone before monosyllabic English words and a falling tone before polysyllabic English words. A pilot study (2020) featuring four Mandarin-English bilinguals found results that didn’t perfectly match, but nonetheless support, the hypothesis. The goal of this project is to build on the pilot study, refining the experiment design, collecting additional data, and performing more rigorous data analysis. The results of this study could shed light on how tonal and atonal languages interact in code-switched contexts, providing further linguistic evidence to facilitate the understanding of code-switching as a cognitive process and the development of models for code-switched speech recognition.