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Tonal Spelling versus Diacritics for Teaching Pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese

Scott McGinnis
The Modern Language Journal
Vol. 81, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 228-236
DOI: 10.2307/328789
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/328789
Page Count: 9
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Tonal Spelling versus Diacritics for Teaching Pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese
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Abstract

This study presents results from a 2-year investigation of the comparative efficacy of tonal spelling and diacritics in the teaching of Mandarin Chinese pronunciation. The research site was the elementary level Chinese language course at the University of Oregon. During the 1991-92 academic year, the course was taught using a romanization system with diacritics, hànyǔ pīnyīn (PY); during the 1992-93 academic year, the course was taught using a tonal spelling system, gwoyeu romatzyh (GR). The analytical mechanism of this study calculates student tonal error rates in identical (save for the romanization system used) reading tasks at identical points in each year's course. Native speakers of Chinese served as assessors. The results clearly indicated that GR did not lead to significantly greater accuracy in tonal production. Indeed, the use of GR reflected slightly lower rates of tonal production accuracy for native speakers of both American English and Japanese.

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