吳實錄

Annals of Wu

漢藏緬語々言研究ㄟ博客
a sinotibetoburman linguistics blog
2014-11-14

A Possible Tonal Connection To Shanghainese Voiced Implosive Onsets discussion - tone

Zhengzhang Shangfang has previously written about voiced implosives in Shanghainese and Southern Wú. The very short summary is that in some Wú dialects implosives are found in place of the voiceless unaspirated onsets. So instead of [pʰ] [p] and [b], we see [pʰ] [ɓ] and [b]. They do not have corresponding vowel quality changes, so there is still a clear difference between /ɓa/ and /ba/ where the former lacks the breathy voicing found in the latter.

An oft-cited reason for this is that there must be some substratum, Tai-Kadai or otherwise, which had implosive obstruents and that's why they're showing up in Modern Wú.

This never sat well with me, and I know I'm not the only one. I recall talking to a respected scholar about this at one point and was answered with a comment along the lines of "substrates are what scholars point to when they really just don't know the answer".

There is one other possibility. The following is from a piece on phonemic tone but may apply here:

We can speculate both on articulatory and perceptual grounds [for a particular tonal phenomenon]. First, a possible explanation is that the voiced consonants went through an implosive stage (b > ɓ) before merging with the voiceless series. Since implosives have a tendency to raise the F0 of the following vowel, it would not be surprising to find lower tonal reflexes on vowels following historically voiceless consonants.

The significant part is this: Implosives do not do anything significant to fundamental frequency if developing from previously voiceless stops. A change from [b] to [ɓ] would result in a raising of F0, but [p] to [ɓ] wouldn't. No contrast would be lost by this change. It is conceivable that there are phonological motivations for this development. Rather than grasping at the substratum cause, which doesn't itself actually address the issue but rather only gives a convenient "hey look over there", there may be room for analysis on phonological grounds taking tone into consideration.

I'm not offering that here. But it's not a bad possibility for some future research.
  1. Jean-Marie Hombert. Consonnt Types, Vowel Quality, and Tone. In Fromkin, Victoria: Tone. 1978
2014-07-12

Plotting Shanghainese Tone Contours In Praat discussion - tone

As mentioned in the last post, the excellent Shanghai Dialect — An Introduction to Speaking the Contemporary Language, Lance Eccles gives a good introduction to the language.

Last week my buddy Qi and I sat down to record the tone contours as given in the book, to set up a comparison between the contours as represented in the book and the same words plotted in Praat.

Altogether there are 5 groups of phrases given as examples of tone contours, each with a monosyllabic word, a bisyllabic word and a trisyllabic one to show spreading of the inital syllables tone over the whole word. In the images below, I've grouped the phrases by initial syllable.

Falling tone


For falling tone words, the examples given were fi (fly), fici (airplane), and ficizang (airport). The following graph shows those words in that order. You can ignore the extra high mark in the middle word. This is a mistake in Praat where the formants were too weak so the line was drawn in the wrong place.







Middle tone


Examples for mid-tone words are given for both checked and non-checked tone intial syllables. For non-checked, the examples are sa (what), saning (who) and sameqzï (also "what"). Again the following shows those words in that order.





Checked examples are iq (one), iqti (a bit) and iqngenge (also "a bit"). Again, you can ignore the small anomaly at the end of the second word.





For mid-tone words of 2 or more syllables, the pattern is the same for checked and non-checked tones with the exception of syllable length.

Low tone


Low tone is also split between checked and non-checked syllable initials. Examples are mwo (horse), mwozâng (immediately) and mwotongke (washroom) for non-checked.





For checked tones, exmple words are liq (stand), liqchi (stand up) and liqchile (also "stand up).





The isolated utterances shown on Praat are not identical to Eccles' but are certainly close enough to be of substantial value to the Shanghainese learner.
    2013-01-03

    A Brief Introduction To Northern Wu Tones lessons - tone

    The following is from the tone sandhi section of a writeup on Wu I've been working on for Phonemica. It's a draft of a single section. The full version will appear on Phonemica in the near future. I've decided to post it here in its current form in case it proves useful to have a clearer explanation than some of the other sources on the topic.

    Wu dialects typically have 7 or 8 tones which follow the traditional system of four tones (ping, shang, qu, ru) with two registers (yin and yang). Tone sandhi — the way in which tones interact with eachother — is remarkable in a number of dialects, most notably that spoken in urban Shanghai.

    In Mandarin, tone sandhi is limited to a few specific combinations, such as when two dipping tones becoming a rising followed by a dipping tones, e.g. 老虎 lǎohǔ becomes láohǔ. However in dialects of Wu, specifically in the northern Taihu dialects which we’ll look at here, the tones follow a set pitch contour that runs throughout a whole multi-syllabic word or phrase. This contour can be determined in one of two ways.

    First, for multisyllabic words, the contour is determined by the first syllable and follows a pattern based on the number of syllables in the word. The following is an example from the Changzhou Taihu dialect. Two four-syllable words are given below, the second having different syllable-level tones than the first. The numbers correspond to the tones of the characters in isolation, 1 being low and 5 being high, thus 24 indicates a rising tone while 55 is a high level tone.

    大清老早 → 大24 清55 老45 早45
    動手動腳 → 動24 手45 動24 腳55

    Since it is the first or left-most syllable that determines the pattern, we say that word-based sandhi is left-prominent. In these cases, That is, the tones of the other syllables in the word are ignored in favour of those assigned by the phrase contour called upon by the first. Since both of these examples begin with a syllable having a mid-rising (24) tone contour, and since both are 4 syllables in length, the resulting contour for both phrases should be the same after sandhi changes, which are as follows:

    大24 清55 老45 早45 → 大21 清21 老44 早21
    動24 手45 動24 腳55 → 動21 手21 動44 腳21

    Despite these two examples having different underlying tones, the left-prominent sandhi system assigns both words the same surface contours since they share a tone on the first syllable. In the dialect of Changzhou, a four-syllable word beginning in a yang-qu tone (the above 24 tone) will always result in a overall contour like that above, with the stress falling on the third syllable. For this reason, it is often said that Northern Wu isn’t a tonal language in the typical sense, but rather should be considered a pitch accent system like some dialects of Japanese and Korean. Of course, different Wu dialects have different ways of handling the tones. In most Northern Wu dialects, however, we should expect a system like that outlined above.

    As mentioned above, for multi-syllabic words, the sandhi system is referred to as left-prominent. That is, only the left-most syllable matters for the overall contour. However for bi-syllabic phrases which themselves do not make up single words, the sandhi rules are different. In these multi-word phrases, the system is right-prominent. That is, the right syllable retains its original tone, while the left syllable is neutralised within its register (yin or yang, as mentioned above). Looking at and example from urban Shanghainese, we have the phrase 讀書 /dɤ sɿ/. These two characters have two different readings: to read a book and to study. Since to read a book is a phrase, it would have a different tone contour than the same syllables meaning to study, the latter being a single word in Shanghainese. The phrase would have application tone sandhi as follows based on word-based left-prominent sandhi and phrase-based right-prominent sandhi:

    to read a book (right-prominent phrase)
    讀12書53 → 讀22書53 / 12 53 → 22 53
    to study (left-prominent word)
    讀12書53 → 讀11書23 / 12 53 → 11 23

    In the first example, to read a book, The tone on 讀 is 24 in isolation, however it is an entering tone and so it gets neutralised to 22. 書 retains its original tone of 53 because it’s the prominent word in the phrase. In the second example, to study functions as a single word, so that the tonal curve of the whole word is determined by 讀. Like the four-syllable example above, two-syllable words also have set contours, and the contour for such sentences beginning with an entering-tone syllable is 11.23. Thus, in the example of to study, the tone on both syllables is modified from the isolated tone, however it’s happening in a pattern determined by the first syllable.

    In addition to the set word-level contours, there are set values for tone neutralisation in phrase-level sandhi. Specifically, yin tones neutralise to 44 while yang tones neutralise to 33. The exception is for the ru class of tones, in which case the tone is neutralised to 22 regardless of register..

    This again is common in Northern Wu dialects, though each dialect will follow a set of sandhi rules unique to that dialect. For that reason we won’t go into more detail here.
    1. 錢乃榮,上海話語法,上海人民出版社,上海,1997
    2. 賀建國,'常州方言多字組連讀變調',鎮江師範專科學校中文系,鎮江,1998
    3. 錢乃榮,上海語言發展史,上海人民出版社,上海,2003
    4. 朱曉農 Zhu Xiaonong,A Grammar of Shanghai Wu,Lincom Europa,München,2006
    5. 錢乃榮等,上海話大詞典,上海辭書出版社,上海,2007
    6. 周晓东等,常州方言詞典,江苏教育出版社,南京,2011

    About

    A semi-academic linguistics blog about Sinotibetan, previously focused primarily on Wú, a Sinitic language spoken in the Yangtze Delta region. Topics now include historical linguistics, documentation, language rights, sociolinguistics and learning materials, as well as acting as the dev blog for Phonemica from time to time.

    I'm a linguist based in Asia, working on documentation and historical development of Sinotibetan. In addition to academic research, I'm heavily involved in Phonemica, an organisation that promotes crowd-sourced preservation of local languages.

    I'm currently in the field, so getting in touch isn't easy. However you can try to email me at the following address and I'll respond as soon as I'm able:

    yhilan.ko@gmail.com
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