“Chinese Accents and Accented Chinese” explored the phonetics and phonology of bilingualism and second language acquisition in which Standard Mandarin was one of the languages involved. We organized three workshops at the Nordic Centre, Fudan University, Shanghai, in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with speakers from different universities in China, as well as from Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, UK and the USA. We published proceedings in 2014 and 2015.
The projects covered the following three areas.
1. Chinese accents within China
Standard Mandarin is the lingua franca of China. But, across China, we also find a large number of dialects. That raises a number of questions that are often addressed in our workshops. How do native speakers of those dialects acquire the sound and tonal system of the Standard language? In which ways do the phonological processing of bidialectal and monolingual speakers in Mandarin differ? And how does one language influence the other within the same individuals? How are bi-dialectal speakers perceived by monolingual speakers of Mandarin? Another intriguing question addresses the effect of bidialectalism on the acquisition of a third language. Do Chinese bi-dialectal speakers have an advantage over monolingual Mandarin speakers, and if so, does this affect the whole process of acquisition or is it limited to specific sounds?
2. Chinese-accented L2 acquisition
English and other (European) languages are very popular studies among Chinese students. Given profound differences between the sound systems of Chinese languages and European languages, it is not surprising that a Chinese accent becomes often apparent. What are the characteristics of Chinese-accented English, French, German, and other languages? Moreover, since Chinese is a tone language with restricted possibilities for sentence intonation, the acquisition of sentence intonation in foreign languages in an interesting field of study. These questions are approached from perception as well as production, and second language processing. Another topic of interest is the mutual intelligibility of Chinese speakers of different L2s and the mutual intelligibility between Chinese learners of a particular language and native speakers of this language. Results are relevant for a deeper understanding of second language acquisition from both a linguistic as educational perspectives.
3.Second language accent in Chinese
Chinese as a second (or foreign) language attracts a steady increasing number of students in the European Union. The acquisition and processing of tone is notoriously difficult but has been investigated almost exclusively for American English native speakers. How speakers of other native languages acquire tone in Chinese is still very much unknown. Also unclear is how tone in connected speech is acquired. The acquisition of tone forms an important field to study from linguistic and pedagogical perspective. In addition: given the similarities and dissimilarities of a sound system of a particular native language and Chinese, we ask the question which transfer effects can be expected and observed.
The workshops were sponsored by Aarhus University (Denmark), The Fryske Akademy (KNAW, The Netherlands), and local assistance from Shanghai International Studies University and Tongji University.