Revisiting the Register Contrast in Shanghai Chinese

Jia Tian, Jianjing Kuang

´╗┐Earlier studies claimed that the contrastive tonal registers in the Shanghai dialect of Chinese were distinguished by contrastive phonation types, with the lower register showing breathier phonation. However, more recent studies found that younger speakers of Shanghai Chinese did not use phonation cues to contrast the tonal registers. The different results between the studies may indicate an ongoing sound change: phonation contrasts are merging among younger speakers. To better understand the phonetic realization of the tonal registers in Shanghai Chinese and to investigate whether a sound change is underway, speakers from both the older generation and the younger generation were recruited to produce pairs of words in different registers. Simultaneous audio and EGG signals were collected, and extensive acoustic and articulatory measurements were extracted. Significant age difference was found. Older speakers reliably produce contrastive phonation types for different registers, as demonstrated by significant differences in the overall spectral slope and the periodicity in acoustic signals, and the contact quotient in EGG signals. The lower register is breathier. In contrast, younger speakers do not produce breathier phonation for the lower register. This study provides evidence for the suggestion that Shanghai Chinese is gradually losing the breathy voice associated with the lower register.

DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2016-32

Cite as

Tian, J., Kuang, J. (2016) Revisiting the Register Contrast in Shanghai Chinese. Proc. Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016, 147-151.

author={Jia Tian and Jianjing Kuang},
title={Revisiting the Register Contrast in Shanghai Chinese},
booktitle={Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016},