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.

Jasmin Sadat will be at PolyU in August 2015

Jasmin Sadat’s  stay abroad in Hongkong is linked to two student research projects that she co-supervises together with Serge Pinto in the Master of Speech Therapy at Hongkong Polytechnic University. In these projects, the students evaluate the impact of dysarthria in Parkinson’s disease in Cantonese in a similar manner as in a current ANR project that Jasmin works on in Aix-en-Provence. However, the students do not have any neurologist support in Hongkong to administer the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale with the patients and control participants that is necessary to classify the stage of the disease. Thus, during he stay, Jasmin Sadat will meet and evaluate all the patients and control participants that were previously tested and will prepare the next steps of the data analysis for their projects. In addition, she will spend several days in Macau to reinforce the collaboration previously initiated by Serge Pinto and Ana Nunes.

Sino-European Research

Interview of Professor Chu-ren HUANG in Euraxess

The pan-European platform EURAXESS published an interview of Professor Chu-ren HUANG, Dean of Faculty of Humanities, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Coordinator of  Variamu.

The EU-funded platform provides information on Sino-European research and on high-profile personalities that shape the Sino-European research landscape, through extensive research experience including projects with European partners.

The interview is available here.

Variamu Seminar #3

Visioseminar (LPL, PolyU, Macau U)

The third Variamu Seminar was held on Tuesday 24th of March.
We listen a talk by:

Angel Chan

 Typological variations in the acquisition of relative clauses: evidence from child Cantonese

Relative clause (RC) is a widely recognized topic of investigation in the fields of language typology, acquisition and processing. The Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy (NPAH, a “putative” linguistic universal) has a long history in accounting for the acquisition of RCs in European languages. Recently however, conceptual changes in rethinking the typology of RCs and child language data from certain Asian languages led researchers of language acquisition to question how far NPAH could account for the learning patterns observed. For instance, Chen & Shirai (2014) hypothesized that in attributive clause languages, multiple factors including input frequency and similarity to canonical clauses, rather than purely structure-based accounts, determine the learning trajectory of RCs. Currently, there is little direct testing of these competing theoretical perspectives. Thus far the evidence from child first acquisition of attributive clause languages (e.g. Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese) suggesting that the developmental patterns do not follow predictions from NPAH is largely based on naturalistic speech production or comprehension data which have their own methodological limitations.

As an attributive clause language, Cantonese provides an interesting test case. In this talk, I will first review the current literature including recent and ongoing works by myself and collaborators, highlighting phenomena of apparent conflicting findings (or “variations”) that also happen in other Asian attributive clause languages, but appear to rarely occur in European languages. I will then outline a proposed project that uses multiple methods to better test the alternative theoretical perspectives. The findings offer a rich testing ground to evaluate a range of theoretical perspectives. An important innovation of the proposed project is the extension of experimental studies to not only Cantonese, and eventually to other attributive clause languages such as Japanese, Mandarin and Thai. Moreover, computational linguists can make use of these new datasets to model the acquisition and processing of RCs in attributive clause languages. The project will broaden and deepen our understanding of RC acquisition/processing in an Asian linguistic context.