On the cognitive basis of contact-induced sound change: Vowel merger reversal in Shanghainese

Yao Yao, Charles B. Chang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the source and status of a recent sound change in Shanghainese (Wu, Sinitic) that has been attributed to language contact with Mandarin. The change involves two vowels, /e/ and /ɛ/, reported to be merged three decades ago but produced distinctly in contemporary Shanghainese. Results of two production experiments show that speaker age, language mode (monolingual Shanghainese vs. bilingual Shanghainese-Mandarin), and crosslinguistic phonological similarity all influence the production of these vowels. These findings provide evidence for language contact as a linguistic means of merger reversal and are consistent with the view that contact phenomena originate from cross-language interaction within the bilingual mind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-467
Number of pages35
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Bilingual processing
  • Crosslinguistic influence
  • Language contact
  • Mandarin
  • Merger reversal
  • Phonological similarity
  • Shanghainese

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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