Ninth International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Pittsburgh, PA, USA
September 17-21, 2006

Word Structure and Tone Perception in Mandarin

Hansjörg Mixdorff (1), Yu Hu (2)

(1) TFH Berlin, Germany; (2) University of Science & Technology of China, China

This paper presents results concerning the relationship between word structure in terms of number of syllables and tonal realization in Mandarin. It examines whether the fact that a word (in our context a prosodic word) is more complex implies certain tonal reductions. Our hypothesis is that a monosyllabic word will be uttered more carefully than a polysyllabic word due to the potentially larger number of possibly confusable words. We also examine whether the total number of syllables in a word has an effect, creating more tonal reductions in longer than in shorter words. A database of Mandarin originally designed for concatenative speech synthesis and segmented into prosodic words was statistically analyzed regarding the occurrences of syllable/tone combinations in prosodic words of varying length. 10 sets of syllables were selected comprising all four tones of Mandarin and occurring as monosyllabic words as well as in varying positions in two- to five-syllable prosodic words. The target syllables were then extracted from their original context and presented to native speakers of Mandarin who had to decide which tone they perceived. The results of the perception test indicate, inter alia, that perception of syllables taken from polysyllables indeed is more error prone than that of monosyllabic words. The number of syllables in a word, however, has only a weak influence. Furthermore, reductions mostly appear for syllables in certain locations in a word and are related with underlying syllables' durations.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Mixdorff, Hansjörg / Hu, Yu (2006): "Word structure and tone perception in Mandarin", In INTERSPEECH-2006, paper 1609-Wed1A3O.2.