Understanding Why Chinese Speak Tagalog The Way They Do


Mayyali Joy E. Ng

(Presented at the 1st MLE Conference, “Reclaiming the Right to Learn in One’s Own Language,” Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City, Feb 18-20, 2010.)

Mayyali Joy E. Ng

ABSTRACT:  This paper explores some prosodic and morpho-syntactic characteristics of the speech variety employed by Mandarin-speaking Chinese-Filipinos when conversing in Filipino.  The first section of this paper discusses how speakers of a tonal language adapt to the speech rhythm of a non-tonal language.  Mandarin is a tonal language. It possesses four lexical tones. The third, when used in a combination, is simplified by means of toneme deletion (Schoenfeld &Kandybowicz 2008). On the other hand, Tagalog is a non-tonal syllable-timed language.  What would be interesting to find out is if the tone inherent in a Chinese word or utterance is carried over by the speaker to its Tagalog equivalent.  The second section of this paper deals with how speakers of an isolating “SVO” language talk in Tagalog, an agglutinating “VSO” language.   It is noticeable that the Tagalog that most Chinese employ in conversations are different. This study posits that these Chinese, though using Tagalog lexical items, utilizes the syntax of Mandarin in their constructions.   The Chinese do not inflect their verbs to show case or aspect.  Furthermore, their pronouns do not differ according to case, thus case is determined through strict word order. Interviews with several informants will be conducted where informants will be asked how they speak a certain Mandarin construction in Filipino. The gathered data will be used in morpho-syntactic analysis. A short film will be shown to each interviewee and asked to relate the story they have seen both in Tagalog and in Chinese. The recorded stories will be used for prosodic analysis.


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