The prosodic effect of the neutral tone to the preceding tone

Author(s): Shanshan Fan, Aijun Li, Jun Gao and Ao Chen


Few studies focused on the tonal realization of first syllables in bisyllabic words with tonal combination of canonical tone + neutral tone in Mandarin. To fill in the void, the present study compared the prosodic characteristics of first syllables between minimal pairs of neutral tone word (NW) and canonical tone word (CW). The results show that (1) For duration, no difference was found. (2) The F0 range is expanded in NW, showing the first syllable in NW is more prominent than that in CW. When we looking at individual tones of the first syllable in NW, the high tone (T1) is raised higher; the falling tone (T4) is expanded larger with higher F0 onset and lower F0 offset; the rising tone (T2) has lower F0 contour, and the dipping tone (T3) is lower, which causes more creaky voices. (3) For intensity, no significant difference was found generally. However, the falling tones show greater intensity in NW than that in CW. The present study implies that neutral tone as a weak element is encoded not only by its own acoustic cues but also by enlarging the preceding F0 range to produce more prominence contrast between the two syllables.