Article in:The Syllable and its Prosody in Chinese
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.
Keywords: syllable isochrony, stop syllable, entering tone, prosodic feature, Cantonese
Allen, George D.
Bauer, Robert S.
Beckman, Mary E.
Beckman, Mary E. & Edwards, Jan
Boersma, Paul & Weenink, David
2018 Praat: Doing phonetics by computer (Version 6.0.37). (http://www.praat.org/) (Accessed 2018-03-14.)
Cao, Jianfen[ p. 44 ]
Chao, Yuen Ren
Cheung, Hung-nin Samuel
1986 The phonology of present-day Cantonese. London: University College London. (Doctoral dissertation.)
Cheung, Kwan-hin & Zhang, Ling
2010 Yueyu yinjie yanchang dui yunfu yunwei shichang de yinxiang [The effect of syllable lengthening: On the duration of syllable nucleus and coda in Cantonese]. In Cheung, Hung-nin Samuel & Chang, Song Hing (eds.), Diachronic change and language contact dialects in Southeast China (Journal of Chinese Linguistics Monograph Series 24), 145–161. Berkeley: Project on Linguistic Analysis.
Grabe, Esther & Low, Ee Ling
2005 Butong yanyu sudu, fayu danwei he fayu weizhi dui guoyu yinduan shichang de yingxiang [The influence of speaking rate, utterance unit and position on segmental duration of Mandarin], Nanda Xuebao (Renwen yu Shehui Lei) [Journal of National University of Tainan (Humanities and Social Sciences)] 39(1). 161–185.
[ p. 45 ]
Lin, Hua & Wang, Qian
2011 Rhythm typology: Acoustic and perceptive studies. Torino: University of Turin. (Doctoral dissertation.)
Mok, Peggy Pik-Ki
2008 On the syllable-timing of Cantonese and Beijing Mandarin. In Bao, Huaiqiao & Shen, Jiaxuan (eds.), Proceedings of the 8th Phonetics Conference of China (PCC 2008) and the International Symposium on Phonetic Frontiers (ISPF 2008), 148–154. Beijing: Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Perry, Conrad & Wong, Richard Kwok-Shing & Matthews, Stephen
Ramus, Franck & Nespor, Marina & Mehler, Jacques
Shi, Feng & Mai, Yun
The Linguistic Society of Hong Kong
1993 The Jyutping scheme. (https://web.archive.org/web/20130426050642/http://www.lshk.org/node/47) (Accessed 2019-02-14.)
Wong, Puisan & Chan, Hoi-Yin
[ p. 46 ]