Universiteit Leiden

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PhD Defence

The production and perception of tonal variation

Wednesday 10 February 2016
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden



Spoken language is notoriously rich in its variability in which pitch patterns over syllables distinguish lexical meanings. Much less, however, have been investigated and understood on how suprasegmental features such as lexical tones vary in their acoustic realizations in different contexts in speech production and how the variabilities further affect listeners’ perception of the lexical tones and the recognition of speech. This dissertation provides a comprehensive study of both local and global tonal variability in Tianjin Mandarin with a series of well-controlled experiments.

The dissertation consists of seven chapters. Chapter 1 briefly introduces the main research issues to be discussed in this dissertation, followed by a description of the phonological system of Tianjin Mandarin in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 investigates the f0 variability induced by two tonal variation processes, i.e., tone sandhi and tonal coarticulation, which are known to greatly vary the f0 realization of lexical tones in a local domain. Chapters 4 and 5 investigate the perceptual consequences of the local tonal variability with two eye-tracking experiments via the visual world paradigm. Chapter 6 sets out to further understand how global factors might influence the tonal f0 realization, which examined the effect of prosodic boundary on neutral tone realization in Tianjin Mandarin. Chapter 7 revisits the research questions and concludes the main findings.

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