The social implications of syllable-final nasal mergers in Taiwan Mandarin: A variation study

Hsi Yao Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study quantitatively examines the variation of (ing) and (eng) in Taiwan, drawing data from sociolinguistic interviews with subjects from Taipei and Tainan. It argues that, first, the two should be treated as two separate variables rather than one with two phonological conditions, and second, language external factors, including speaker's place of origin, gender, current residence, and topic all influence the two variables, but to different extents. Place of origin has the strongest effect on the variation of (ing) and (eng), but the use of the merger variants of the two variables is respectively led by southerners and northerners, indicating a dialectal split. The merger variant [in] of (ing) is especially closely associated with regional identity. Gender also plays a substantial role in the variation of (ing), with males using the merger variant [in] significantly more than female subjects. In contrast, the relation between gender and (eng) appears more opaque, with Taipei females leading in the use of [an] and Tainan females using it least frequently among the 2 × 2 dyads of gender and region. The seemingly irregular pattern with regard to gender can be explained in light of Fon et al.'s (2011) perception test results and sociolinguistic literature related to gender and language variation. The study further provides a sketch of the development of the social meanings of the two variables in light of the findings of this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-802
Number of pages36
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Gender
  • Regional difference
  • Social meaning
  • Sociolinguistic variation
  • Syllable-final nasal mergers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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