The Impact of Language Environment on Tone Perception and Production of Cantonese-English Simultaneous Bilinguals in the United Kingdom
The present dissertation explored the differences in tone perception and production between Cantonese-English simultaneous bilinguals residing in the UK, and Cantonese monolinguals/ Cantonese-English successive bilinguals from HK, and investigated the relationship between tone perception and production. This study also explored the factors that motivated and hindered successful perception and production. Simultaneous bilinguals in this study were exposed to both Cantonese and English before the age of 3. Previous framework suggested the successful outcome observed in successive bilinguals in perceiving and producing non-native tones. Studies also found that tone and non-tone language speakers demonstrated different tone patterns. Research in this field has yet to explore the tone perception and production patterns of simultaneous bilinguals. Eight female adult speakers from the UK and HK were recruited in this study. Participants completed perception and production tasks that consisted of stimuli including three syllables (/fɐn/, /ji/ and /si/) in six tones. The results were analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The UK participants demonstrated the highest accuracy rate in perceiving tone 33, and the HK participants perceived tone 25, 33 and 21 with a 94.4% accuracy score. Both the UK and HK participants obtained the lowest accuracy in perceiving tone 22. Furthermore, the two groups differed in the F0 pitch height of tone 33 and 22 production, and demonstrated a narrowing of F0 pitch height difference between tone 25 and 23, and tone 21 and 22. It was believed that the ability to perceive tones by the BBC group predicted the ability to produce tones. These results led to conclude that language environment was a contributing factor to the ability to perceive and product tones. Results appeared to be beneficial to the design of curriculum in Cantonese tones targeting the increasing bilingual speakers outside Hong Kong.