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Friday, October 11 • 9:20am - 9:45am
Tse: Does standard Chinese mean anything for Cantonese vowel variation?

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Does standard Chinese mean anything for Cantonese vowel variation?

​Unlike many communities studied by variationists in which SLI means convergence of spoken and written language, for Cantonese speakers, language ideology historically meant the opposite. In this presentation, I show how traces of this ideological distinction between written and spoken codes (cf. Snow 2004) remain present in both Hong Kong and in Toronto. I focus on two sets of sound correspondences found with (Standard) Mandarin cognates: Cantonese /i/ to Mandarin /ə/ and Cantonese /y/ to Mandarin /u/). Only Cantonese /y/ shows convergence, but only for second-generation Toronto speakers who are least likely to speak Mandarin. Toronto English influence, thus, better accounts for this change. The lack of standard Chinese influence on vowel pronunciation can be understood in terms of a historic distinction between codes and in terms of how speakers understand these distinctions (as I show from sociolinguistic interview excerpts) even as these distinctions continue to evolve under Western influence.

Session abstract: What’s so standard about standards?
Standard language ideology (SLI) is a topic ripe for new cross-cultural comparisons, as notions of standard and prestige have been central to sociolinguistic theorizing (Meyerhoff 2019). Cheshire observes that ‘variationists have worked almost exclusively on languages that have been heavily standardized, so the potential influence of [SLI] on the selection of variables […] has been high’ (2005:87). Further, historically atypical standardized national languages of urban elites in modern stratified societies have entrenched hierarchical views of variation, that are grounded in a functional model and asymmetric power relations (e.g. Rickford 1986). These biases should be addressed if we are to build sociolinguistic universals (Guy & Adli 2019). This session continues the discussion by examining underrepresented communities where SLI is realized in different ways, or not at all. Six original research papers will explore this topic around the world, and a discussant presentation will contextualize the panel’s observations.​​​


Holman Tse

St. Catherine University

Friday October 11, 2019 9:20am - 9:45am PDT
EMU Gumwood
  S: What's so standard about standards?