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ERIC Number: ED523817
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 185
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1243-9313-1
The Theory of Adaptive Dispersion and Acoustic-Phonetic Properties of Cross-Language Lexical-Tone Systems
Alexander, Jennifer Alexandra
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Northwestern University
Lexical-tone languages use fundamental frequency (F0/pitch) to convey word meaning. About 41.8% of the world's languages use lexical tone (Maddieson, 2008), yet those systems are under-studied. I aim to increase our understanding of speech-sound inventory organization by extending to tone-systems a model of vowel-system organization, the Theory of Adaptive Dispersion (TAD) (Liljencrants and Lindblom, 1972). This is a cross-language investigation of whether and how the size of a tonal inventory affects (A) acoustic tone-space size and (B) dispersion of tone categories within the tone-space. I compared five languages with very different tone inventories: Cantonese (3 contour, 3 level tones); Mandarin (3 contour, 1 level tone); Thai (2 contour, 3 level tones); Yoruba (3 level tones only); and Igbo (2 level tones only). Six native speakers (3 female) of each language produced 18 CV syllables in isolation, with each of his/her language's tones, six times. I measured tonal F0 across the vowel at onset, midpoint, and offglide. Tone-space size was the F0 difference in semitones (ST) between each language's highest and lowest tones. Tone dispersion was the F0 distance (ST) between two tones shared by multiple languages. Following the TAD, I predicted that languages with larger tone inventories would have larger tone-spaces. Against expectations, tone-space size was fixed across level-tone languages at midpoint and offglide, and across contour-tone languages (except Thai) at offglide. However, within each language type (level-tone vs. contour-tone), languages with smaller tone inventories had larger tone spaces at onset. Tone-dispersion results were also unexpected. The Cantonese mid-level tone was further dispersed from a tonal baseline than the Yoruba mid-level tone; Cantonese mid-level tone dispersion was therefore greater than theoretically necessary. The Cantonese high-level tone was also further dispersed from baseline than the Mandarin high-level tone--at midpoint and offglide only. The TAD cannot account for these results. A follow-up analysis indicates that tone-space size differs as a function of tone-language type: level-tone and contour-tone systems may not be comparable. Another analysis plots tones in an onset F0 x offglide F0 space (following Barry and Blamey, 2004). Preliminary results indicate that the languages' tones are well-separated in this space. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A