ASA 125th Meeting Ottawa 1993 May

2aSP20. Phonetic observations on tone and stress in Mandarin Chinese.

Corinne B. Moore

Dept. of Modern Lang. & Linguist., Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY 14853

This study reports results of an experiment on Beijing Mandarin tones and stress. There are four lexical tones in Mandarin, plus a pitch pattern referred to as the ``neutral tone,'' which occurs on atonic or unstressed syllables. The literature has been vague, however, about whether syllables that have undergone tone deletion as a result of destressing and underlyingly atonic syllables show the same surface pitch pattern. This experiment examined these lexical tones in stressed and unstressed contexts, and then compared unstressed tone patterns to that of the neutral tone. The experiment focused on duration and pitch range as effective correlates of stress. Unstressed syllables were found to be significantly shorter in duration than stressed syllables, corroborating previous studies. Pitch range was also significantly reduced in unstressed contexts in all cases except one. The data unexpectedly showed that changes in pitch range are a function of the pitch peak only; pitch valleys did not significantly change. Finally, the results provide evidence that unstressed syllables with underlying tones do not neutralize completely, but remain distinct from the neutral tone.