A perceptually-based approach to Chinese syllable-tone patterning

Author(s): Mingqiong Luo

Abstract

Syllable structure is systematically related to tone patterning in two dimensions: sonority and duration. The reasons for this are fundamentally phonetic: syllable weight is determined by the sonority and duration profile of the rhyme, which themselves are the phonetic correlates of tone. This paper uses the Moraic Model [1] to analyze the weight-mediated syllable-tone patterning in four distinct Chinese languages, and a perceptually-based approach to provide a functional explanation. It is found that a one-to-one patterning between weight and tone units is more commonly found in Chinese languages, whereas the one-to-many patterning between units of the two tiers is much less common.

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