The role of educational factors in the development of lexical splits
While variationist literature on sound change has mostly focused on chain shifts and mergers, much less is written about splits (Labov, 1994, 2010). Previous literature shows that the acquisition of splits is unlikely unless motivated by social factors (Labov, 1994). The current study presents an apparent time analysis on the development of two phonemic splits, the initial /s/-/ʂ/ contrast and the initial /ɻ/-/l/ contrast, in Xiamen Mandarin, a contact variety of Putonghua, the official language in China. Statistical results showed similar patterns for both variables: younger speakers and female speakers are leading the change; the distinction between two phonemes are more distinct in wordlist than in the sociolinguistic interview. By examining the sociolinguistic situation in Xiamen, the paper discusses two potential factors that have led to these sound changes: the regional campaign for Putonghua and the emphasis of Pinyin, a phonetically-based orthography, in the education system.
Keywords: sociophonetics, phonemic split, Mandarin, change in progress, standard language ideology, Pinyin
Published online: 17 September 2018
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