Lexical tone and stuttering in Cantonese
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 2018, 32 (4), pp. 285 - 297
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© 2018 Taylor & Francis. Cantonese is a tone language, in which the variation of the fundamental frequency contour of a syllable can change meaning. There are six different lexical tones in Cantonese. While research with Western languages has shown an association between stuttering and syllabic stress, nothing is known about whether stuttering in Cantonese speakers is associated with one or more of the six lexical tones. Such an association has been reported in conversational speech in Mandarin, which is also a tone language, but which varies markedly from Cantonese. Twenty-four native Cantonese-speaking adults who stutter participated in this study, ranging in age from 18–33 years. There were 18 men and 6 women. Participants read aloud 13 Cantonese syllables, each of which was produced with six contrastive lexical tones. All 78 syllables were embedded in the same carrier sentence, to reduce the influence of suprasegmental or linguistic stress, and were presented in random order. No significant differences were found for stuttering moments across the six lexical tones. It is suggested that this is because lexical tones, at least in Cantonese, do not place the task demands on the speech motor system that typify varying syllabic stress in Western languages: variations not only in fundamental frequency, but also in duration and intensity. The findings of this study suggest that treatments for adults who stutter in Western languages, such as speech restructuring, can be used with Cantonese speakers without undue attention to lexical tone.
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