Dongguan Cantonese, a subdialect of Yue spoken at Dongguan locality of Guangdong, China, is a confluence of massive rural-to-urban immigration spurred by China’s economic reform. Dongguan Cantonese has eight lexical tones, in line with Middle Chinese tone categories, but the system is evolving as a consequence of the new linguistic ecology of China in recent years. This study conducted a multidimensional investigation of this ongoing change through production and perception experiments of tones on 32 young speakers (mean age = 22.7 yrs) balanced for gender, and a word reading task of Yin Ping syllables on 16 speakers balanced for gender and age (half speakers’ mean age = 20.8 yrs, and half speakers’ mean age = 50.6 yrs). Results show that Yin Ping, Yin Shang and Yang Shang in Dongguan Cantonese are in the progress of merging, while at the same time, Ying Ping is developing from a low-rise tone to a high-flat tone, presumably due to tone value transfer from prestige dialects such as Standard Cantonese and Putonghua. Thus it is anticipated that Dongguan Cantonese is gradually developing into a new linguistic variety under the new and dynamic language ecology of modern China.
Dr LIANG earned the B.A and MPhil. degrees in Chinese Linguistics from the Peking University, followed by a Ph.D. degree in Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong, where she investigated the information structure and discourse function of dislocation in Cantonese. After graduated, Dr Liang extended her research interest from functional linguistics to Chinese dialects and phonology, language contact and development, and the study of Chinese language learning for both native and non-native learners. Dr Liang has been the research fellow at City University of Hong Kong, Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at the Shenzhen University. At present she is the Assistant Professor in the Department of Chinese Language Studies at the Education University of Hong Kong.