Presentation by Roxana Fung at the LPL

Roxana Fung is currently doing a 3-months research stay at the LPL for working with Brigitte Bigi on the Adding Cantonese into SPPAS project.

We take advantage of her presence for a presentation of her current work, to be held on May 6th (11am-12am), room B011

The Asymmetry of the asymmetry: An interplay of production and perception in the multiple tone mergers in Hong Kong Cantonese

Merger is a much-studied sound change that involves the lost of contrast between two formerly distinct phonemes. It showcases the asymmetry of production and perception in sound change as numerous studies have documented that the collapse of phonemic distinction may not processing in the same rate in these two language faculties (such as DeCamp 1953, Labov et al 1991). The asymmetry fuels the hot debate on which faculty starts a sound change: perception, or production? This paper may shed intriguing lights on this debate by presenting a complicated interplay of the two language faculties in multiple and competing mergers in Hong Kong Cantonese (HKC) tones based on a study of 120 participants of three age groups. HKC stands out from other tone languages in the world by having a rich tonal inventory with six contrastive tones. However, this rich system is in the process of merging. Among the five tone pairs that exhibited merger, an asymmetry of the asymmetry was attested in that production led perception in some mergers but followed perception in others. This paper attempts to provide an explanation for the asymmetry and fill the gap of limited studies on the interaction of the two language faculties in competing sound changes.


Dr Roxana Fung is Associate Professor in the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her main research interests are language variation and language change. She has carried out studies on voice quality and speech prosody on the distinction of Cantonese accents, variations and mergers in Cantonese tones and consonant codas, and the interplay of phonology, semantics, and pragmatics of sentence-final particles.

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