Downstep effect and the interaction with focus and prosodic boundary in Mandarin Chinese

Bei Wang, Frank Kügler, Susanne Genzel


It has been observed that in a HLH (High-Low-High) tone sequence, the second H tone is lowered in pitch, as compared to a HHH tone sequence, which was termed as downstep. To calculate the downstep effect and test its scope, we compared sentences in the tonal structure of (HHHHHH)(HHHHHHH) to (HHHHHL)(HHHHHHH). The syntactic boundary between the L (X) and the H (Y) was either a syllable boundary or a phrase boundary. Moreover, corrective focus was elicited either on the syllable X, Y, sentence final (Z) or none (wide focus). The results showed that: (1) in the wide focus and sentence-final focus (ZF) condition, downstep can last for several syllables; (2) a phrase boundary did not block downstep; (3) when syllable Y was focused, on-focus F0 raising did not override downstep, however, it stopped the trend of downstep in the following H tones; (4) when syllable X was focused, it caused a post-low-bouncing effect on the following H tones instead. Taken together the data showed that downstep is relatively stable and independent.


 DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2018-5

Cite as: Wang, B., Kügler, F., Genzel, S. (2018) Downstep effect and the interaction with focus and prosodic boundary in Mandarin Chinese. Proc. TAL2018, Sixth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages, 22-26, DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2018-5.


@inproceedings{Wang2018,
  author={ Bei Wang and Frank Kügler and Susanne Genzel},
  title={ Downstep effect and the interaction with focus and prosodic boundary in Mandarin Chinese},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. TAL2018, Sixth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages},
  pages={22--26},
  doi={10.21437/TAL.2018-5},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/TAL.2018-5}
}