Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2215-1354
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1362
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This study investigates the perception of the variation of neutral tone, a phonetic feature in China’s official language, . Specifically, I explore whether native listeners perceive social meanings such as standardness, regional-ness, status and/or solidarity presumably associated with the low-use, standard use, and high-use of neutral tone, and how gender influences the perception of these meanings. Based on the results of a matched-guise test, I argue that the high use of neutral tone, through its link with Beijing dialect, is possibly competing with the standard, though the latter maintains a higher level of positive meanings. I also note that the low use of neutral tone – associated with Southern China and non-Mandarin varieties – carries more negative meanings. The overall gender differences show that gender prejudice towards women still exists in China. This study enriches our understanding of sociolinguistics in China and calls for more research on language variation in China.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Chinese; gender; language variation; Mandarin; matched-guise technique; neutral tone; Putonghua
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