A Preliminary Study on the Productivity of Mandarin T3 Sandhi in Mandarin-speaking Children

Xunan Huang, Gaoyuan Zhang, Caicai Zhang

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Mandarin Tone 3 (T3) sandhi is highly productive in novel words produced by native adult speakers. However, it is unclear when the sandhi pattern becomes productive in young children learning Mandarin Chinese as their mother tongue. To address this issue, this preliminary study examined the productivity of T3 sandhi in different age groups (children aged 3 to 6 and adults) in real words and two types pseudowords, semi-pseudowords that were non-occurring combinations of two real monosyllables (*AO) and pseudowords where the first syllable was an accidental gap (AG). Preliminary results showed that children’s application of T3 sandhi might reach an adult level in real words as early as three years old. However, in the *AO condition, children may reach an adult-like application at five years old. In the AG condition even the 6-year-old children may not reach an adult-like application rate; besides, among the children, the 3-year-old children performed worse than the older children although none of them were adult-like. These preliminary results imply that children’s learning of the tone sandhi words undergoes a gradual transformation from a rote-memory based lexical mechanism to a computation-based productive mechanism. Until six years of age, Mandarin-speaking children may not have developed the adult-like competence of computation mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


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