April 24, 2018 - 11:00am to 12:45pm


This dissertation investigates whether there is reciprocal contact-induced prosodic change in Yami-Mandarin bilingual speech. The goal was achieved in two steps. First, a description of key aspects of Yami intonation allowed for a cross-linguistic comparison between Yami and Mandarin intonations and laid a crucial foundation for step two. Second, I examined Yami-Mandarin bilingual intonation patterns to identify potential influence of the two languages on one another. 

To study Yami intonation, five target sentence types (statement, neutral question, confirmation-seeking question, default statement question (SQ1), and statement question conveying lighter degree of incredulity (SQ2)) were elicited using a new paradigm – the Interactive Card Game. Three parameters: final boundary tone, F0slope, and pitch height are considered to see how they are deployed by sentence type. To gauge the effect of language background on intonation, 44 participants, including Yami-monolingual, Mandarin-monolingual, Yami-dominant bilingual, balanced bilingual, and Mandarin-dominant bilingual groups, were recruited. 

The results show that Yami-monolinguals make a two-way distinction separating falling (L%) statements and neutral questions from rising (H%) confirmation-seeking questions and SQ1s. Bilingual speakers show evidence of Mandarin influence in two respects. First, they transfer the Mandarin-like (level) intonation to their Yami neutral questions; second, a non-Yami-native question type (SQ2) has also been “transplanted” into Yami by Mandarin-dominant bilinguals. Interestingly, the newly-added Mandarin question type is intertwined with pre-existing Yami intonation to form a hybrid pattern. 

Using Mandarin-monolingual as the reference group, the results indicate that Mandarin speakers make a three-way distinction among falling (L%) statements and confirmation-seeking questions; level-contour (M%) neutral questions and SQ2s; and rising (H%) SQ1s. Bilingual speakers, on the other hand, show one deviation - realizing SQ1s with a level contour. The absence of a SQ1(H%)-SQ2 (M%) contrast in their Mandarin production is possibly attributable due to Yami influence because this distinction does not exist in Yami. This embodies another hybrid pattern in which Yami phono-syntactic category is transferred into Mandarin and then fused with the already-existing Mandarin intonation. 

Present-day bilingual speech thus reveals co-influence of Yami and Mandarin on one another. However, the rapid language loss in the younger generation (Mandarin-dominant bilinguals and Mandarin-monolinguals) suggests new, asymmetrical directions in the evolution of the intonation systems. It is possible that over time, the Yami influence may be diluted in their Mandarin, and their Yami may diverge from traditional forms and evolve into a new-styled system. 

Location and Address

Cathedral of Learning, 2818 (Conference Room)