International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages
With Emphasis on Tone Languages

Beijing, China
March 28-31, 2004

Tone and Prominence in Standard Chinese

Hu Chen

Department of Graduates, Luoyang University of Foreign Languages, China

This paper studies the relationship between tone and prominence in Standard Chinese (SC). Unlike in English and some other intonation languages where intonational prominence is phonologically free to be associated with L tones as well as H tones, we have found that the four SC lexical tones behave quite regularly yet distinctively under prominence. Specifically, as emphasis on the tones escalates from none to strong, Tone 1 constantly raises its pitch level; Tone 2 constantly raises its H target, with its L target moderately raised only under strong prominence. Besides, as prominence increases, Tone 2 shows an increasingly upstepping effect on the following tone; Tone 3 generally keeps its L target unchanged, with its prominence level more clearly indicated by the pitch level (i.e., degree of upstepping) of the following tone; Tone 4 constantly raises its H target, with its L target moderately lowered only under strong prominence. On the whole, the realization of prominence in SC intonation is more dependent on the raising either of the H target of the lexical tones themselves or of the following (or maybe also the preceding) tone if they do not have one. The L targets do have an effect in Tones 2 and 4 as prominence becomes very strong, but still this effect is only auxiliary. As for the L target of Tone 3, its realization of prominence has a heavy reliance on the H target of the following (or preceding) tone.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Chen, Hu (2004): "Tone and prominence in standard Chinese", In TAL-2004, 29-32.