Contact-induced splits in Toronto Heritage Cantonese mid-vowels


  • Holman Tse University of Pittsburgh


This paper illustrates how contact can facilitate the development of phonemic and allophonic splits bypresenting results from a study of vowel variation and change in Toronto Cantonese, a variety of Cantonesespoken in a heritage language contact setting. The data includes hour-long sociolinguistic interviewsfrom speakers from two different generational backgrounds. The vowel space of each of 20speakers was created based on F1 and F2 measurements of 105 tokens per speaker (15 tokens for eachof 7 monophthongs). This paper focuses on the results for two of the mid vowels (/ɛ/ and /ɔ/) wherethere is evidence for the development of two phonetically conditioned splits based on velar context. Athird split, discussed in Tse (In Press), may have triggered the development of these two splits amongsecond-generation speakers. Phonological influence from Toronto English is one possible explanationfor these splits. Overall, the results of this study may partially address why there are more documentedcases of vowel mergers than vowel splits. Splits may be more likely to develop in certain contact settings that have been under-researched in the variationist sociolinguistics literature.




How to Cite

Tse, H. (2017). Contact-induced splits in Toronto Heritage Cantonese mid-vowels. Linguistica Atlantica, 35(2). Retrieved from