Edited by Lian-Hee Wee, Feng Wang and Yuan Liang
[Language and Linguistics 23:1] 2022
► pp. 20–46
Syllable isochrony and the prosodic features of stop syllables in Cantonese
Cantonese is a syllable-timed language: that is, the syllable is the isochronous unit of speech. However, in Cantonese, there is a type of closed syllable with the stop codas [-p], [-t], or [-k] (i.e. syllables with the so called “entering-tones”) which sound much shorter than other syllables. On the surface, the shorter duration of stop syllables and the general prosodic feature of syllable-isochrony seem to conflict. This study conducted acoustic investigations of stop syllables in Cantonese in different contexts (i.e. in isolated form, in disyllabic words, and in disyllabic words located at the beginning, middle, and final positions of sentences). The results showed that stop syllables alone are shorter than non-stop syllables in various contexts. However, in disyllabic words or in sentences, there is a supplementary lengthening effect immediately after the stop syllables: there is more acoustic blank, and in some circumstances the initial of the following syllable is lengthened. Therefore, we propose that the phonetic realization of syllable isochrony is beyond the syllable itself in Cantonese. The results and discussions of this study may also shed light on the problem of the disappearance of “entering tones” from various Chinese dialects.
- 1.1Rhythmic typology and syllable isochrony in Cantonese
- 1.2Syllable structure and stop syllables in Cantonese
- 2.Research method
- 2.1Design of the reading list
- 2.2Participants, audio-recording settings, and acoustic measurement
- 3.1Duration patterns of isolated syllables
- 3.2Duration patterns of the syllables saam1 and sap6 in different contexts
- 3.3Duration patterns of the disyllabic words “saam1/sap6 + Quantifier” in different contexts
- 3.4Duration structure of the initials, rhymes, and acoustic blank in the words of “saam1/sap6 + Quantifier”
- 4.Discussions and conclusions
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