Language Planning and Varieties of (Modern Standard) Chinese
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
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In spite of a widening acceptance of attenuated retroflexed initials (zh‑, ch‑ sh‑) in Taiwan Mandarin today, there is a parallel movement in seemingly the opposite direction: a growing use of the retroflexed initials in certain contexts. A conflict between the two trends often surfaces in the form of hypercorrection, that is, incorrect substitution of the retroflexed initials for the corresponding dental initials (z‑, c‑, s‑). Labov (1973) observed a trend toward a similar kind of phonetic hypercorrection in New York City English, mainly among the upwardly-aspiring lower middle class. Though this group is also especially susceptible to the use of hypercorrect forms in Taiwan, people in all walks of life with all levels of education have been observed to use hypercorrect forms. This demonstrates, first, that the textbook forms of the retroflexed vs. dental initials are learned imperfectly by a wide spectrum of speakers of Taiwan Mandarin; second, that the retroflexed initials retain a certain cachet in marking speech as more prestigious and authoritative; and third, that retroflexion, hypercorrect or otherwise, has for many people taken on the function of simply marking formal discourse, in addition to its use for disambiguation, highlighting, and stylistic effect.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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