Mandarin adaptations of coda nasals in English loanwords

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The paper documents and analyzes the ways in which English loanwords into Mandarin are adapted to conform to the Rhyme Harmony constraint that requires the front vs. back quality of a nonhigh vowel to agree with the coronal vs. dorsal character of a nasal coda. The principal finding is that the backness of the English vowel determines the outcome and can force a change in the place of articulation of the nasal coda. This is attributed to the phonetic salience of the vowel feature in comparison to the relative weakness of the nasal place feature. It is concluded that phonetic salience is a critical factor in loanword adaptation that can override a phonologically contrastive feature.


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