Phonetic and phonological properties of tones in Shanghai Chinese

in Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale
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This study investigates the relations between tone, voicing, and voice quality in modern Shanghai Chinese. In low tone syllables, word-initial obstruent onsets are traditionally described as voiceless and breathy, and sonorant onsets as voiced and breathy.

Our study is based on acoustic and electroglottographic (EGG) data from speakers of two age groups (20–30 vs. 60–80 years). Our results are globally in line with previous studies, but with notable differences. In low tone syllables, while word-initial stops are phonetically voiceless most of the time, fricatives are quite often phonetically voiced. While low tone obstruent onsets are followed by breathier vowels than high tone onsets, this pattern is not clear-cut for nasal onsets. Furthermore, our transversal data show that low tone breathiness is more systematically produced by elderly – especially male – speakers, rather than young speakers, suggesting an on-going change towards the loss of breathiness.

Phonetic and phonological properties of tones in Shanghai Chinese

in Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale

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    Figure 1

    Average F0 contours of the five monosyllabic tones according to speaker group, syllable or tone type (upper panel: unchecked tones; lower panel: checked tones). “Muddy” (brown) colors/solid lines stand for “yang” tones.

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    Figure 2

    Illustrations of waveforms and spectrograms (with F0 contours) for /pɛ/ T2 (left panels) and /bɛ/ T3 (right panels) syllables; from top to bottom: young female, young male, elderly female, and elderly male

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    Figure 3

    Mean HNR (dB) in the monosyllabic context for stop onsets (top panels) according to tone and speaker group; for fricative onsets (bottom left panel) and for nasal onsets (bottom right panel) according to tone

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    Figure 4

    H1–H2 in monosyllables according to tone and time point, averaged across speakers and onsets. “Muddy” (brown) colors/solid lines stand for “yang” tones.

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    Figure 5

    H1–H2 in monosyllables according to tone and speaker group, averaged across speakers, onsets and time points P1–P3

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    Figure 6

    H1–H2 in disyllables (left panel for S1 and right panel for S2 contexts) according to tone and target syllable, averaged across speakers, onsets and time points P1–P3

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    Figure 7

    OQ contours according to tone, time point and speaker group for unchecked (upper panel) and checked (lower panel) tones

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    Figure 8

    F0 (upper panel) and OQ (lower panel) contours averaged across onsets for unchecked syllables, for the three young male speakers

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