AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Acoustic properties of vowel production in Mandarin-English bilingual and corresponding monolingual children

by Jing Yang

Institution: The Ohio State University
Department: Speech and Hearing Science
Degree: PhD
Year: 2014
Keywords: Speech Therapy; Linguistics; Vowel production, Acoustic properties, Bilingual children, Monolingual children
Record ID: 2043499
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1392832160


This dissertation includes four separate but interrelated studies which serve to address two main goals: First, studies 1 and 2 investigate the development of acoustic characteristics of vowel production in 3-6 years old monolingual Mandarin and monolingual English children relative to corresponding monolingual adults. Second, studies 3 and 4 examine the phonetic features associated with the process of language separation and L1-L2 interaction in young bilingual Mandarin-English children. A number of studies used transcription-based accuracy rating method and have shown that vowels are relatively easy to acquire and vowel acquisition is generally completed prior to three years of age. In order to examine whether children exhibit continuing development of acoustic features after three years of age, studies 1 and 2 compared both static and dynamic acoustic characteristics of vowel production between monolingual Mandarin children and adults (study 1) as well as monolingual English children and adults (study 2). Both Mandarin children and English children showed increasing compactness of individual vowel categories in the acoustic space, which evidenced the refinement of acoustic details in children in this age range. In addition, for both Mandarin and English children, the vowel dynamics also provide evidence to show the developmental change for certain vowels. Study 3 documented the emergence of bilingualism in a young boy from the age of 3:7 to 5;3. The child initially utilized his L1 base in building the L2 vowel system. The L1-L2 separation began through a drastic restructuring of his working vowel space to create maximal contrast between the two languages. This abrupt partitioning was accomplished by temporarily creating a reduced L2 vowel space, which gradually expanded as the child “added” L2 vowels to his L2 system. While the general shape of his L1 vowel space remained unchanged throughout, L1 developmental processes and influence of L2 on L1 were also in effect. Study 4 examined the extent to which the L1-L2 interaction effect changes the phonetic features of vowel productions of young bilingual Mandarin-English-speaking children. It is found that young bilingual children with low proficiency in English (L2) preserved the basic acoustic features of Mandarin (L1). But their production of English was strongly affected by their Mandarin. In particular, they transferred both static and dynamic vowel features from L1 to L2. Young bilingual children with high proficiency in English produced English vowels in a near-monolingual manner. However, they still show different acoustic features in certain aspects of their vowel production. In addition, due to the influence of English, their production of Mandarin vowels showed systematic differences from monolingual Mandarin children in both static and dynamic vowel features. In sum, this dissertation provided evidences to show the continuing acoustic development in children after three years of age regardless of their language background. As a result of on-going acoustic…