Publication details [#59382]

Kim, Tae-Eun. 2014. Preservation and deletion in Mandarin loanword adaptation. International Journal of Chinese Linguistics 1 (2) : 214–243.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper is about how English inputs that are not allowed in the native Mandarin phonology are adapted to Mandarin phonotactics in Mandarin loanwords. The focus of the discussion is on whether or not the elements in the inputs are preserved or deleted and what causes the phenomena. Through analyses of English consonant adaptation in Mandarin loanwords, the functions of both borrowers’ perception and the native Mandarin phonology are consistently found. The high preservation of the nasal consonants in any syllabic position clearly shows the functions, in that the salient segments are usually preserved and the acceptance of nasal codas in Mandarin phonology makes Mandarin speakers easily perceive the nasal sounds even in the coda positions. Furthermore, English /m/ and /n/ in the final positions are usually differently adapted into Mandarin loanwords. English /m/ mostly forms an independent syllable by vowel insertion while /n/ is mostly adapted into the coda nasal of the preceding syllable (e.g., English loam → Mandarin lú-mǔ, English pint → Mandarin pǐn-tuō). This tendency is due to the function of Mandarin phonology, because a nasal /n/ is allowed as a coda consonant, but /m/ is not allowed. The high deletion of English /ɹ/ in the coda or in the consonant clusters also supports the argument. The English /ɹ/, except in the initial position, is not easily perceived due to its own vowel-like quality and the fact that it is a non-Mandarin phoneme. Lastly, the higher preservation of consonants in the initial clusters than in the final clusters also shows the close relationship between perception and Mandarin phonology. Even though Mandarin does not allow consonant clusters in any position, final consonant clusters should be harder for Mandarin speakers to perceive. The reason is that in Mandarin phonology, consonants usually do not come in the final positions while all the consonants except /ŋ/ can come in the initial positions. More frequent deletion of consonants in final CCC clusters than in CC clusters can be identically explained.