Acoustic characteristics of American English produced by native speakers of Mandarin

Date of Completion

January 1999


Language, Linguistics|Health Sciences, Speech Pathology




This study examined the acoustic characteristics of specific phonetic features of American English as produced by native Mandarin speakers. The features examined were vowel accuracy, syllable stress, and speaking rate in American English production. These acoustic features obtained for the Mandarin speakers were also compared to the speech productions provided by a group of American English speakers. Results indicated the 11 English vowels produced by the Mandarin and American speakers occupied similar relative positions and constitute a quadrilateral shaped space. The general dimensions of the vowel quadrilateral obtained for the Mandarin speakers appear to be more confined, and the vowel distributions more compact, compared to the American speakers. The Mandarin speakers were most accurate with regard to first and second formant frequency in producing vowels which are found to occur in both Mandarin and English languages. They exhibited a tendency to produce all vowels with a shorter duration compared to American English speakers. Results pertaining to the production for syllable stress found Mandarin and American English speakers to signal syllable stress with the same amount of syllable intensity. However, the Mandarin speakers were found to signal syllable stress with a higher F0 and shorter syllable duration compared to American speakers. Acoustical and perceptual assessments for the Mandarin and American English speakers revealed differences between groups with respect to speaking rate and number of silent pauses. Both Mandarin male and female speakers were found to speak English with a slower rate and a proportionately higher number of pauses compared to the American speakers. In general, the results of findings for the Mandarin speakers revealed inaccuracies in American English production which were predicated on the features of the Mandarin language. The implications of these findings with regard to the clinical management of Chinese individuals who speak English as a second language are discussed. ^