De-stressed words in Mandarin: drawing parallel with English

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In colloquial Standard Mandarin, monosyllabic tonal function words (such as classifiers, prepositions, personal pronouns, etc.), are regularly pronounced as unstressed and phonetically reduced (e.g. 他 [thə]), unless they are emphasized ([thaː]). Their unstressed forms play an important role in speech rhythm. This study investigates this group of words. I open the discussion by addressing the general issue of stress in Mandarin, arguing that de-stress might be an essential notion here. English words with weak forms (articles, prepositions, etc.) are then introduced. I establish a similar group of words in Chinese, coining a new term for them: the cliticoids. The strong resemblance between both groups is pointed out. Finally, pedagogical implications of the findings are proposed: the proper handling of the cliticoids may help L2 learners to improve their oral performance.


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