A Potential New Sound Change after Tonogenesis: A Preliminary Perceptual Study on the Tonal Contrast of Wenzhou Wu Chinese

Weijun Zhang, Peggy Pik Ki Mok


Wu Chinese, spoken in Southeast China, developed high and low tonal register contrast from onset voicing contrast in history. A new sound change observed in production is that the phonation type contrast of the vowel has emerged and meanwhile the pitch difference across tonal registers arising from tonogenesis is narrowing in young speakers’ speech. The current study aims to investigate the perceptual cue(s) that distinguishes the tonal register contrast for speakers of different age groups in Wenzhou dialect of Wu. A generational change is found on the perceptual cues in perceiving the tonal contrast. Old speakers use both low pitch and vowel breathiness to perceive the low register tones, and any type of cue conflict may lead to a bias to the high register tones. The pitch still has an effect for young speakers but the cue weighting has been decreased. The vowel phonation type difference has become the primary perceptual cue of tonal register contrast for young speakers. A potential new sound change after tonogenesis could be observed, that the phonetic realisation of the contrast has changed from a segmental feature (consonantal voicing) to a suprasegmental feature (tone), and now is further changing to another segmental feature (vowel phonation).


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-102

Cite as: Zhang, W., Mok, P.P.K. (2020) A Potential New Sound Change after Tonogenesis: A Preliminary Perceptual Study on the Tonal Contrast of Wenzhou Wu Chinese. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 499-502, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-102.


@inproceedings{Zhang2020,
  author={Weijun Zhang and Peggy Pik Ki Mok},
  title={{A Potential New Sound Change after Tonogenesis: A Preliminary Perceptual Study on the Tonal Contrast of Wenzhou Wu Chinese}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={499--502},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-102},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-102}
}