for the degree of Master of Philosophy
at The University of Hong Kong
Intra-lingual and cross-language homophone effects in Cantonese-English bilinguals were investigated using a cross-modal phonological priming paradigm. The monosyllabic visual targets, in English for experiment 1 and in Chinese for experiment 2, were presented immediately after a monosyllabic auditory prime which is either its intra-lingual homophone, cross-language homophone or phonologically unrelated control in either language. Only intra-lingual phonological priming effects were found for both languages. The negative results on the existence of cross-language phonological priming across Chinese (Cantonese) and English may be due to fundamental differences in word (character) recognition mechanisms. Phonetic differences (native English versus Hong Kong English) also resulted in significant differences in the strength of phonological priming effects. The results show that Hong Kong Cantonese-English bilinguals are able to distinguish native English from Hong Kong English perceptually, and perceive Hong Kong English as closer to Cantonese than native English. In addition, the existence of cross-language homophones significantly affected the results for Hong Kong English primes only. Priming effects were greater for English intra-lingual pairs than Cantonese-Chinese pairs. It is argued that the word (character) identification process of Chinese may be phonologically mediated in a way different from that of alphabetic languages, and that the contribution of phonology to the word recognition process of Chinese is limited.