The development of gender-differentiated /ɕ/ production in Mandarin speaking children

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Shi, Yanjun
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University of Lethbridge
The goal of the present study is to examine the developmental trajectory of the gender-differentiated /ɕ/ production in Mandarin Chinese in terms of the relative contribution from anatomical development, prenatal hormonal effect, and gender typed behavior. The development of gendered /ɕ/ production has been an uncharted area of research. Mandarin-speaking participants were recruited from Grade 1(age 7), Grade 6 (age 12), and Grade 10 (age 16) from schools in Luoyang, a city in central China. The participants spoke standard Mandarin and had no known speech, language, or hearing deficiency. They were asked to read a list of 36 Mandarin words with 18 target words beginning with fricatives /ɕ/ or /s/ followed by vowels /a/, /i/, or /u/. All the fricatives were extracted from the recorded speech and their spectral mean frequencies were obtained. The spectral mean frequency was used as an acoustic indicator for gender variation of the fricative production. Anatomical development was measured through height, weight, and head circumference. Prenatal hormonal variation was assessed by the 2D: 4D ratio of the right hand. Gender typed behavior was assessed via a parent-report Child Play Behavior and Activity Questionnaire (CPBAQ). The result showed that only the sound /ɕ/ exhibited gender-differentiated production. Gender difference of /ɕ/ was found to emerge between age 7 and age 12. Significant correlation existed only between gender typed behavior and gendered /ɕ/ production for 16-year old boys(r=0.40, p=0.01). No anatomical or prenatal hormonal effect was found for gender variation of /ɕ/ production. The emergence of gendered /ɕ/ production was interpreted to be associated with the beginning of sexual maturation at the onset of puberty and gender identity development that excels at adolescence. The development of gendered /ɕ/ production was considered to parallel gender identity development at first and later become part of the gender norms for boys in mid-or late-adolescence.
53 p.
Gendered speech , Mandarin Chinese , Fricatives