Phonological properties of tonal alternation

Lecture by Jie Zhang, Kansas University
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Hood Museum, Wilson 219, 4:45 pm
Reception to follow in Reed Hall, room 322
Free and open to the public!

The phonological properties of tonal alternation affect the nature of its variation

Phonological processes in languages often apply variably. For instance, the schwa in the word memory may or may not delete in actual production, and the propensity for schwa deletion to occur is influenced by both grammatical (e.g., the segmental context of the schwa) and usage (e.g., the token frequency of the word) factors. In this talk, I focus on the nature of variation in tonal alternation, also known as tone sandhi, in two Wu dialects of Chinese. In Shanghai, tone sandhi involves the spreading of the tone on the initial syllable of a word to the entire word domain. In Wuxi, tone sandhi also involves spreading, but only after the initial tone has been substituted by another tone. In both dialects, the tone sandhi pattern applies variably. I report subjective rating data that shed light on the effects of morphosyntactic structure, lexical frequency, and semantic transparency on sandhi variation and show that Shanghai and Wuxi behave differently in the morphosyntactic structure and frequency effects. These results are interpreted with respect to the different phonological nature of the two tone sandhi patterns as well as our earlier wug-test results on the productivity of the two patterns.

Jie Zhang is Professor of Linguistics at Kansas University, where he began as Assistant Professor in 2003. He earned his PhD in Linguistics from UCLA with his dissertation, The effects of duration and sonority on contour tone distribution: typological survey and formal analysis. He is widely published in such prestigious journals as Phonology, Lingua, and Journal of Phonetics, and has received funding from the National Science Foundation for his research on productivity in Chinese tone sandhi.

This event is sponsored by the Linguistics Program!