Binging Yu's MA Story
How did you end up in linguistics and what was the journey like for you?
I studied Classical philology (historical Chinese linguistics) when I was doing my BA in China, but later found I am more interested in contemporary linguistics rather than historical linguistics, then I applied to exchange abroad. Then I got a chance to exchange at UOttawa and took several linguistics courses, and found that I am especially interested in phonetics. Then I decided to apply for grad school.
What was your experience like at SFU?
It was generally a very great experience! The department offers lots of research opportunities, and funding. I met difficulties during my research, especially in the COVID period, but luckily I finally overcome them with the help of so many nice people in the department. I really want to thank all the professors and all my grad peers at SFU, who accompanied me and helped me grow. I miss the time when I was working towards my degree very much.
Tell us what your thesis topic is about and what got you interested in the topic.
My thesis studies the intrinsic fundamental frequency (IF0) in Hong Kong Cantonese tones. Given the tension between exaggerating IF0 to enhance vowel contrasts and restraining IF0 to distinguish confusable tone pairs, the investigation 1) examines the relationship between IF0 and tone merging and 2) tests the mixed physiological enhancement hypothesis (MPEH) that IF0 is physiologically determined, but adjusted to enhance perception of contrasts. I chose this topic because I am interested in tonal languages, sound change, and the phonetics-phonology interface.
What was the most exciting or interesting part of doing your M.A.?
I think it is the literature review part. I developed it after reading lots of literature and listening to many people’s ideas. I feel very motivated and fulfilled when writing it.
What are your plans now that you have completed your M.A.?
I plan to know more about the field of hearing sciences, especially the overlap of linguistics and hearing sciences. I plan to gain some clinical experiences, to see which specific research area, and which specific job I like most. I still plan to do a PhD in hearing sciences/experimental phonetics later!
Do you have any advice or tips for undergrads who are thinking to go into an M.A. program or for graduate students who are currently in the program?
The first piece of advice is, it’s very normal to meet difficulties (finding topics, analyzing data, writing, or even mental health, etc.) and feel depressed. Be confident and don’t put the difficulties off. It would be the best to encourage yourself, find help from others, and overcome the difficulties bravely. The second piece of advice is, it’s also normal to feel lost at some point in the program. Don’t think too much, and try your best to concentrate in getting the work done. Then, give your self some time to explore. The last piece of advise is to maintain a good relationship with others and build good connections. It is much more important than you might have thought.
Bingqing Yu's MA Thesis
The IF0 effect in the Hong Kong Cantonese tone system:
This study investigates intrinsic fundamental frequency (IF0) in Hong Kong Cantonese tones. Given the tension between exaggerating IF0 to enhance vowel contrasts and restraining IF0 to distinguish confusable tone pairs, the investigation 1) examines the relationship between IF0 and tone merging and 2) tests the mixed physiological-enhancement hypothesis (MPEH) that IF0 is physiologically determined, but adjusted to enhance perception of contrasts. When F0 measurements of vowels are fit to Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMM), the results suggest that the confusable tone pairs are at the beginning of a tone-merging process. The size of the IF0 effect varies as follows: T2 > T1/T5 > T3/T6, which supports MPEH to some extent. However, IF0 of T4 and individual speaker performance cannot be fully explained by MPEH. Future research is needed to elucidate the IF0 mechanism and the relationship between IF0 and tone merging.