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February 16, 2018 | 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Category: Lecture
Location: 5057 Woodward #10302 | Map
5057 Woodward
Detroit, MI 48202
Cost: Free

A Linguistics Program Colloquium presentation by Qian Luo, Michigan State University


Consonant types can influence F0 values of the adjacent vowels (this F0 perturbation effect is henceforth referred to as C-F0). C-F0 may be enlarged to maximize perceptual distinctiveness and thus reinforce Aspiration Contrast (Kingston and Diehl 1994). In tonal languages, the effect may also be inhibited to cue Tone Contrast by constraining F0 variability given the demands of the lexical tone system (Gandour 1974; Hombert 1975). This study investigates how C-F0 can be related to Aspiration Contrast and Tone Contrast by asking the following questions: (1) Are the magnitudes and the direction of C-F0 regarding Aspiration Contrast consistent across tone types and languages? (2) Does F0 have a cue trading relation with VOT, an acoustic cue for Aspiration Contrast? (3) Is C-F0 conditioned by distance between tones, an indicator for the salience of Tone Contrast? 

Experimental Design: Fifteen Mandarin speakers and fifteen Cantonese speakers participated in the production experiments. All stimuli followed a CV template. The Cantonese stimuli covered six Cantonese tones: T1[55], T2[35], T3[33], T4[21], T5[23] and T6[22]. The Mandarin stimuli had four Mandarin tones: T1[55], T2[35], T3[214] and T4[51]. Initial consonants were aspirated [th, kh, ph], unaspirated [t, k, p] and sonorants [m, l, n]. F0 values following sonorants were the baseline for evaluating C-F0 (Hanson 2009; Kirby and Ladd 2016). 

Results: (1) There was a consistent C-F0 direction across all Mandarin tones and Cantonese T1[55] and T3[33]: F0[aspirated] was higher than F0[unaspirated] and F0[sonorant]. F0[unaspirated] started from the middle and converge with the lowest F0[sonorant]. (2) No strong evidence was found for a cue trading relation between VOT and F0 in Mandarin or Cantonese. (3) F0 distance between tones could correctly predict how far C-F0 extends in different tone contexts, but not how big the F0 differences caused by C-F0 are. A cross-linguistic comparison supported the idea that a higher degree of tone competition may restrict C-F0. 

Conclusion: (1) C-F0 regarding aspiration contrast is consistent in the raising direction. Tones only influence the magnitudes of C-F0, not the direction. (2) VOT, as the primary acoustic cue for the Aspiration Contrast, is unlikely to be traded by F0 in Mandarin or Cantonese, contrary to the findings in Kong and Edwards 2016. (3) The results also suggest that C-F0 can be conditioned by Tone Contrast. This finding provides insights for historical phonology, indicating that historical tone changes are less likely to take place in tone systems that have a high degree of competition among tones.


Qian Luo is a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistics at Michigan State University. Her research interests include experimental phonology, sound change, tone, language evolution, and Chinese linguistics. Her Ph.D. dissertation is on the interaction between consonants and pitch across tonal languages. She is a co-principal investigator in the Mandarin Tone Perception and Production project and has presented and published her studies in the Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, and The 5th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages.

For more information about this event, please contact Haiyong Liu at 313-577-9937 or an1884@WAYNE.EDU.