In Cantonese and several other Chinese languages, /n/ is merging with /l/. The Cantonese merger appears categorical, with /n/ becoming /l/ word-initially. This project aims to describe the status of /n/ and /l/ in bilingual Cantonese and English speech to better understand individual differences at the interface of crosslinguistic influence and sound change. We examine bilingual speech using the SpiCE corpus, composed of speech from 34 early Cantonese-English bilinguals. Acoustic measures were collected on pre-vocalic nasal and lateral onsets in both languages. If bilinguals maintain separate representations for corresponding segments across languages, smaller differences between /n/ and /l/ are predicted in Cantonese compared to English. Measures of mid-frequency spectral tilt suggest that the /n/ and /l/ contrast is robustly maintained in English, but not Cantonese. The spacing of F2-F1 suggests small differences between Cantonese /n/ and /l/, and robust differences in English. While cross-language categories appear independent, substantial individual differences exist in the data. These data contribute to the understanding of the /n/ and /l/ merger in Cantonese and other Chinese languages, in addition to providing empirical and theoretical insights into crosslinguistic influence in early bilinguals.
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