The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 10/17 - Edward Flemming

Speaker: Edward Flemming (Joint work with Hyesun Cho)
Title: The phonetic specification of contour tones: The rising tone in Mandarin
Location: 32D-831
Time: Monday, Oct 17, 5:00pm

In this talk I will report on joint work with Hyesun Cho investigating how contour tones are specified phonetically. It has been proposed that all tones are realized by point targets for pitch, so the pitch movement associated with a rising tone is simply the result of interpolation between low and high point targets. Other analyses argue that pitch movements in contour tones are governed by targets, e.g. specifying the slope of the pitch movement. We investigate this question through a case study of the Mandarin Chinese rising tone. The patterns of variation in the realization of the rising tone as a function of speech rate indicate that the specifications of this tone involve targets pertaining to both the pitch movement and its end points: the slope of the f0 rise, the magnitude of the rise, and the alignment of the onset and offset of the rise. In addition, this analysis implies that the rising tone is over-specified in the sense that the targets conflict and thus cannot all be realized. The conflict between the tone targets is resolved by a compromise between them, a pattern that is captured by formulating the targets as weighted, violable constraints.

Upcoming Phonology Circle Talks:
Oct 24 – Laura McPherson
Oct 31 – Michael Kenstowicz
Nov 7 – Suyeon Yun
Nov 28 – Donca Steriade