5th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Sydney, Australia
November 30 - December 4, 1998

The Differential Status of Semivowels in the Acoustic Phonetic Realisation of Tone

Phil Rose

Department of Linguistics (Arts), Australian National University, Australia

This paper examines one aspect of the phonetic mapping of tone onto segmental material. It asks whether prevocalic semivowels ([j- & w-]) can be said to constitute part of the material over which tonal F0 is distributed. The distribution of acoustical correlates of tone (F0, duration) is determined on syllables differing with respect to semivowels in the segmental structure in three of the contrasting contour tones (falling, convex and low rising) from the Chinese Wu dialect of Zhenhai. Four different syllable-structures are examined. It is concluded that (1) syllable-initial semivowels are not tonally relevant, and (2) semivowels behave differentially with respect to phonetic mapping depending on whether they are preceded by a syllable-initial consonant. Implications of the finding are explored for the phonological integration of semivowels into metrical syllable structure. The relevance of the finding is also pointed out for the measurement of tone (and intonation) acoustics in running speech.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Rose, Phil (1998): "The differential status of semivowels in the acoustic phonetic realisation of tone", In ICSLP-1998, paper 0298.