Dissertation
Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Phonetics > Word tone,intonation

On the Prosodic Patterns of Yes-no Questions in English and Chinese

Author DuanShuPing
Tutor ZhouWeiJing
School Jiangsu University of Science and Technology
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords yes-no questions in English yes-no questions in Chinese prosodic patterns Three Ts Theory L2acquisition of English yes-no questions
CLC H014
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Prosody is a crucial part and an unavoidable topic in linguistics. English and Chineseare distinct from each other in the prosodic patterns. The prosodic patterns of targetlanguage are difficult to acquire correctly for EFL (English as a foreign language) learnersor CFL (Chinese as a foreign language) learners. However, there is no existing researchconcerning the differences of the prosodic patterns between English and Chinese. So it isworth studying the prosodic patterns of yes-no questions in English and Chinese. This papertries to compare the prosodic patterns of yes-no questions between English and Chinese.This study adopts the Three Ts Theory (tonality, tonicity and tone)(Halliday,1967;Wells,2006) to analyze the prosodic patterns of yes-no questions produced by ReceivedPronunciation (RP) speakers, standard Chinese mandarin (CM) speakers, and Chineselearners of English as a foreign language (EFL). Specifically, this study intends to addressthe following research questions:(1) What are the prosodic patterns of yes-no questions in English?(2) What are the prosodic patterns of yes-no questions in Chinese?(3) What are the similarities and differences in the prosodic patterns of yes-noquestions between English and Chinese?(4) To what extent can Chinese EFL learners acquire the prosodic patterns of yes-noquestions in English?The materials of the phonetic experiments were nine yes-no questions in English andChinese. They were divided into two types: five simple yes-no questions and four complexyes-no questions.The subjects of the present were four RP speakers, four standard CM speakers, andtwenty Chinese EFL learners. All of them were required to read aloud the nine yes-noquestions in both English and Chinese. The data were recorded via Cool Edit Pro V2.1,andthe recorded data were then annotated and analyzed via Praat software. Finally, the statisticdata generated from Praat scripts were analyzed in Excel.The results of data analysis reveal the following major findings.1. In English,(i) For tonality, RP speakers usually chunk simple yes-no questions into one IP when it has the simple subject-predicate-object structure, and use a pitch reset todivide the sentence into two IPs when it has adverbial modifiers. In addition, they also use apitch reset to divide the complex sentence into two IPs.(ii) For tonicity, RP speakers tend toplace the tonicity on the final lexical word.(iii) For tone, all RP speakers tend to adopt arising tone (L*+H) on the nucleus accent ending with a high boundary tone (H%) to realizethe rising intonation of yes-no questions.2. In Chinese, on the other hand,(i) For tonality, CM speakers chunk the simpleChinese yes-no question into one IP when it contains the simple subject-predicate-objectstructure, and use a pause to divide the sentence into two IPs when it has adverbialmodifiers. Also, they use pauses to break the complex yes-no questions into two IPs.(ii) Fortonicity, CM speakers tend to put the tonicity on the final lexical word as a nucleus.(iii) Fortone, CM speakers convey question intonation by applying a high boundary tone (H%) onthe mood designator ‘吗ma0’.3.(i) The similarities of the prosodic patterns of yes-no questions between English andChinese are:(a) For tonality, Both RP speakers and CM speakers prefer to take simpleyes-no questions as one IP when it only have a subject-predicate-object structure, and breakthe simple yes-no question into two or more IPs when it contains adverbial modifiers.Besides, both groups of the subjects tend to break the complex yes-no questions into two IPs.(b) For tonicity, both RP speakers and CM speakers show a great tendency to put thetonicity on the final lexical word within one IP.(ii) The differences of the prosodic featuresare:(a) For tonality, all RP speakers prefer to use a pitch reset to signal boundaries betweentwo IPs, while CM speakers tend to adopt a pause to signal boundaries between two IPs.(b)For tone, RP speakers adopt a rising tone (L*+H) on the nucleus accent ending with a highboundary tone (H%) to realized the interrogative intonation. CM speakers use theinterrogative mood designator ‘吗ma0’ with a high boundary tone (H%) to carry out theinterrogative information..4. To what extent can Chinese EFL learners acquire the prosodic patterns of yes-noquestions properly? The results are:(i) For tonality,100%of Chinese EFL learners chunk simple yes-no questions into one IP and80%of Chinese EFL learners divide the sentence into two IPs when it has adverbialmodifiers, and100%of them break the complex yes-no questions into two IPs. Instead ofpitch reset, they use a pause to signal boundaries between the two IPs.(ii) For tonicity,85%Chinese EFL learners place the nucleus on final content word as RP speakers do.(iii) Fortone,100%of Chinese EFL learners have mastered the general rising tone in English yes-noquestions, but their overall structure of the tone pattern is quite different from that of RPspeakers. Chinese EFL learners tend to give the tone pattern of English yes-no questionsmore pitch variation. What’s more, the final boundary tones of English yes-no questionsproduced by Chinese EFL learners differed significantly those produced by RP speakers.In some degree, the findings listed above might fill in the blank of the domestic studyand shed light into the EFL or CFL teaching and learning in and outside of China.

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