Volume 55, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2451-828x
  • E-ISSN: 2451-8298
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



After the change of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to People’s Republic of China, Mandarin has become increasingly important in Hong Kong society. However, it is observed that many native Cantonese speakers have problems mastering Mandarin tones despite the less complex tonal system. This study attempts to investigate the Mandarin tonal error patterns made by Hong Kong learners and the possible causes for these errors. A reading aloud test and a follow-up interview were designed to collect the data. The findings of the study show that a large number of students were confused about Mandarin tones and found them difficult to master, especially between tone 1 and tone 4 and tone 2 and tone 3. All the participants made these two mistakes in the test. This study hypothesizes that L1 negative transfer is the key factor that helps Cantonese speaking learners’ ability to establish a new tone in the L2. However, the reason for participants’ tonal mistakes is not due to one single cause; instead, the errors are caused by multiple factors, including lack of tonal knowledge, incomplete tonal acquisition, and tonal errors explained by the Speech Learning Model.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Cao, R.
    (2012) Perception of Mandarin Chinese Tone 2/ Tone 3 and the role of creaky voice. University of Florida. ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0044096/00001
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Chen, H. C. , & Han, Q. W.
    (2017) A corpus-based online Mandarin pronunciation learning system for Cantonese learners: Development, evaluation, and implementation. InPTLC2017: Proceedings of the Phonetics Teaching and Learning Conference, London, 9–11 August 2017, 30–34. Chandler House.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. (2018) Designing and implementing a corpus-based online pronunciation learning platform for Cantonese learners of Mandarin. Interactive Learning Environments, 28(1), 18–31. 10.1080/10494820.2018.1510422
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10494820.2018.1510422 [Google Scholar]
  4. Gut, U.
    (2005) Corpus-based pronunciation training. InProceedings of the Phonetics, Teaching and Learning Conference, London.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Hao, Y. C.
    (2012) Second language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese tones by tonal and non-tonal language speakers. Journal of phonetics, 40(2), 269–279. 10.1016/j.wocn.2011.11.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2011.11.001 [Google Scholar]
  6. Hao, Y. , & Chi, R.
    (2013) The positive role of L1 in the acquisition of a second language. Studies in Literature and Language, 7(2), 45–48.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department
    Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department (2016) Thematic household survey report- report No. 59 -pattern of smoking -personal computer and internet penetration – use of language. www.statistics.gov.hk/pub/B11302592016XXXXB0100.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Ip, K. H.
    (2008) A phonological analysis of Hong Kong Cantonese secondary students’ errors in Putonghua tones. HKU Theses Online (HKUTO).
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Flege, J. E.
    (2007) Language contact in bilingualism: Phonetic system interactions. In Cole, J. & Hualde, J. I. (eds). Laboratory Phonology9, 353–381. Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Lau, E.
    (2010) Tone-melody relationship in Cantonese. Working Papers in Linguistics: University of Hawai’i at Manoa, 41(3), 1–12.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Lau, M. H.
    (2010) L1 influence on Cantonese as a second language among adult Putonghua-speaking learners in Hong Kong. HKU Theses Online (HKUTO).
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Li, C. N. , & Thompson, S. A.
    (1989) Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Liu, Y.
    (2008) Error types and sequencing of Putonghua characters by Cantonese area: A quantitative analysis. Applied linguistics, 2, 67–71.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Matthews, S. , & Yip, V.
    (2013) Cantonese: A comprehensive grammar. Routledge. 10.4324/9780203835012
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203835012 [Google Scholar]
  15. Wang, X. C.
    (2013) Perception of Mandarin tones: The effect of L1 background and training. The Modern Language Journal, 97(1), 144–160. 10.1111/j.1540‑4781.2013.01386.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2013.01386.x [Google Scholar]
  16. Wayland, R. & Guison, S.
    (2004) Training English and Chinese Listeners to Perceive Thai Tones: A Preliminary Report. Language LearninCg, 54(4): 681–712. 10.1111/j.1467‑9922.2004.00283.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2004.00283.x [Google Scholar]
  17. Yang, B.
    (2015) Perception and production of Mandarin tones by native speakers and L2 learners. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 10.1007/978‑3‑662‑44645‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44645-4 [Google Scholar]
  18. Zhu, H.
    (2002) Phonological development in specific contexts: Studies of Chinese-speaking children. Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Zhang, B.
    (2010) Language Attitudes of Secondary School Students Towards English, Cantonese and Putonghua in the Context of Post-colonial Hong Kong [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Leicester.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Zhang, X. , Samuel, A. G. , & Liu, S.
    (2012) The perception and representation of segmental and prosodic Mandarin contrasts in native speakers of Cantonese. Journal of Memory and Language, 66(3), 438–457. 10.1016/j.jml.2011.12.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2011.12.006 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error