Vowel Quality Cues to Variable Nasal Adaptation in Mandarin Loanword Phonology


  • Ho-Hsin Huang Michigan State University
  • Yen-Hwei Lin Michigan State University




Mandarin, Loanword Phonology, Variable Adaptation, Perception


Variation in phonological adaptation has not always been analysed in detail, but some studies on Standard Mandarin (SM) loanword phonology, where a seemingly wide range of variation is present, have started to uncover cases where instances of variable adaptation are contextually conditioned (e.g. Hsieh, Kenstowicz, & Mou, 2009 on SM nasal codas; Lin 2008 on SM vowels). Our study presents corpus and experimental data in which intervocalic English nasals are variably adapted as either geminates or singletons in SM. We argue that the perceived duration and nasalization of the English prenasal vowels condition which variant is preferred in SM, and suggest how these vowel quality cues are processed and mapped onto SM phonological representation by monolingual and bilingual SM speakers. This study contributes to a better understanding of which phonetic cues modulate variation in adapted forms and how they do so. It also showcases multiple sources for variable loanword adaptation: linguistic contexts, auditory vs. non-auditory inputs, and monolingual vs. bilingual differences.