Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 25, 2020

Coarticulation effects of contour tones in second language Chinese

Hang Zhang and Yirui Xie


This study tests for evidence of tonal coarticulation effects, especially anticipatory effects, in production of non-native Chinese contour tones. Eighty second language learners of Chinese and ten native speakers participated in a main experiment and two supplementary experiments in which they produced both real and pseudo disyllabic words. Findings indicate that anticipatory coarticulation is relevant in L2 contour tone production. L2 speakers’ Tone 2 and to some extent Tone 4 tend to be less intelligible to native listeners when followed by tones starting with a high onset (Tone 1 or Tone 4) due to anticipatory coarticulation. Some similar and different tonal coarticulation effects between native Chinese speakers and second language learners of Chinese are also noted in the paper based on the experiment results. This study argues that a ‘universal’ coarticulatory constraint plays a role in shaping second language Chinese tone phonology.


本文旨在验证声调协同发音对母语为非汉语者的曲折调(二声、四声)发音的影响。其中,逆向协同发音的影响为本文研究重点。 80 名有各自不同母语背景的汉语学习者和 10 名汉语母语者参与了本文中的实验。该实验由一个主要实验和两个补充实验组成,要求两组实验对象就有意义和无意义的双音节词进行发音。实验结果表明,汉语学习者的曲折调的发音状况与逆向协同发音相关。在逆向协同发音的影响下,当二声和四声位于起始音为高音的声调(一声、四声)之前时,汉语学习者的曲折调(尤其是二声)更难被母语者听辩。根据实验结果,本文还指出了协同发音的影响在汉语学习者和汉语母语者发音状况中的相似和不同之处。本文认为一种普遍的协同发音机制约束着汉语二语学习者声调语音体系的形成。


Abramson, Arthur. S. 1979. The coarticulation of tones: An acoustic study of Thai. In T. L. Thongkum (ed..), Studies in Tai and Mon-Khmer Phonetics and Phonology in Honour of Eugénie J. A. Henderson, 1–9. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Bao, Zhiming. 1999. Tonal contour and register harmony in ChaoZhou. Linguistic Inquiry 30(3). 485–493.Search in Google Scholar

Beddor, Patrice Speeter, James D. Harnsberger & Stephanie Lindemann. 2002. Language-specific patterns of vowel-to-vowel coarticulation: Acoustic structures and their perceptual correlates. Journal of Phonetics 30. 591–627.Search in Google Scholar

Bent, Tessa. 2005. Perception and production of non-native prosodic categories. Unpublished doctoral Dissertation, Northwestern University.Search in Google Scholar

Boersma, Paul & David Weenink. 2011. Praat: doing phonetics by computer [Computer program]. Version 5.2.17, retrieved November 2011 from .Search in Google Scholar

Broselow, Ellen, Su-I Chen & Chilin Wang. 1998. The emergence of the unmarked in second language phonology. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 20(2). 261–280.Search in Google Scholar

Broselow, Ellen, Richard R Hurtig & Catherine Ringen. 1987. The perception of second language prosody. In G. Ioup & S. Weinberger (eds.), Interlanguage Phonology, 350–362. Cambridge: Newbury House.Search in Google Scholar

Brunelle, Marc. 2003. Coarticulation effects in northern Vietnamese tones. Proceedings of the 15th International Conference of Phonetic Sciences.Search in Google Scholar

Chang, Charles B. & Anita R. Bowles. 2015. Context effects on second-language learning of tonal contrasts. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 138(6). 3703–3716.Search in Google Scholar

Chang, Charles B. & Yao Yao. 2016. Toward an understanding of heritage prosody: Acoustic and perceptual properties of tone produced by heritage, native, and second language speakers of Mandarin. Heritage Language Journal 13(2). 134–160.Search in Google Scholar

Chao, Yuen-Ren. 1930. A System of tone letters. Le Maitre Phonetique 45. 24–27.Search in Google Scholar

Chen, Qinghai. 2000. Analysis of Mandarin tonal errors in connected speech by English–speaking American adult learners. Doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young University.Search in Google Scholar

Chen, Yiya. 2012. Tonal variation. In A. C. Cohn, C. Fougeron & M. K. Huffman (eds..), The Oxford Handbook of Laboratory Phonology, 103–114. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam & Morris Halle. 1968. The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.Search in Google Scholar

Duanmu, San. 2000. The phonology of standard Chinese. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Eckman, Fred R. 2004. From Phonemic Differences to Constraint Rankings: Research on Second Language Phonology. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 26. 513–549.Search in Google Scholar

Epstein, Samuel David, Suzanne Flynn & Gita Martohardjono. 1996. Second language acquisition: Theoretical and experimental issues in contemporary research. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 19. 677–758.Search in Google Scholar

Flemming, Edward. 2011. The grammar of coarticulation. In M. Embarki & C. Dodane (eds..), La Coarticulation: Indices, Direction et Representation, 189–212. Paris: L’Harmattan.Search in Google Scholar

Gandour, Jack, Siripong Potisuk & Sumalee Dechongkit. 1994. Tonal coarticulation in Thai. Journal of Phonetics 22. 477–492.Search in Google Scholar

Gandour, Jack, Siripong Potisuk, Sumalee Dechongkit & Suvit Ponglorpisit. 1992. Tonal coarticulation in Thai disyllabic utterances: a preliminary study. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 15. 93–110.Search in Google Scholar

Gottfried, Terry & Traci Suiter. 1997. Effect of linguistic experience on the identification of Mandarin Chinese vowels and tones. Journal of Phonetics 25. 207–231.Search in Google Scholar

Han, Mieko S. & Kong-on Kim. 1974. Phonetic variation of Vietnamese tones in disyllabic utterances. Journal of Phonetics 2. 223–232.Search in Google Scholar

Hao, Yen-Chen. 2012. Second language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese tones by tonal and non-tonal language speakers. Journal of Phonetics 40. 269–279.Search in Google Scholar

HSK Department, Chinese government. 1992. Handbook of the graded vocabulary for HSK. Beijing: Beijing Language Institute Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hu, Zhuang-Lin. 2008. Zuowei waiyu de hanyu jiaoxue 作为外语的汉语教学[Teaching Chinese as a foreign language]. Foreign Language Education in China 1(2). 3–12.Search in Google Scholar

Hyman, Larry M. & Kenneth VanBik. 2004. Directional rule application and output problems in Hakha Lai tone. Language and Linguistics 5(4). 821–861.Search in Google Scholar

Jie, Zhang. 2004. The role of contrast-specific and language-specific phonetics in contour tone distribution. In B Hayes, R Kirchner & D Steriade (eds.), Phonetically based phonology, 157–190. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Jun, Sun-Ah. 2005. Prosodic typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kiriloff, C. 1969. On the auditory perception of tones in Mandarin. Phonetica 20. 63–67.Search in Google Scholar

Lado, Robert. 1968. Linguistics across cultures-applied linguistics for language teachers. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Search in Google Scholar

Leben, William R. 1973. Suprasegmental phonology. Doctoral dissertation, MIT.Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Yuh-shiow, Douglas A. Vakoch & Lee Wurm. 1996. Tone perception in Cantonese and Mandarin: A cross-linguistic comparison. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 25. 527–542.Search in Google Scholar

Li, Charles & Sandra Thompson. 1977. The acquisition of tone in Mandarin-speaking children. Journal of Child Language 4. 185–199.Search in Google Scholar

Lin, Maocan & J. Yan. 1991. Tonal coarticulation patterns in quadrasyllabic words and phrases of Mandarin. Proceedings of the XIIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences 3. 242–245.Search in Google Scholar

Lin, William C. J. 1985. Teaching Mandarin tones to adult English speakers: Analysis of difficulties and suggested remedies. RELC Journal 16(2). 31–47.Search in Google Scholar

Lubker, James & Thomas Gay. 1982. Anticipatory labial coarticulation: Experimental, biological and linguistic variables. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 71. 437–448.Search in Google Scholar

Magen, Harriet. 1984. Vowel-to-vowel coarticulation in English and Japanese. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 75. S42.Search in Google Scholar

Major, Roy. 2001. Foreign accent: The ontogeny and phylogeny of second language phonology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Search in Google Scholar

Manuel, Sharon. 1990. The role of contrast in limiting vowel-to-vowel coarticulation in different languages. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 88. 1286–1298.Search in Google Scholar

Miracle,, W. Charles. 1989. Tone production of American students of Chinese: a preliminary acoustic study. Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association 24(3). 49–65.Search in Google Scholar

Oh, Eunjin. 2008. Coarticulation in non-native speakers of English and French: An acoustic study. Journal of Phonetics 36. 361–384.Search in Google Scholar

Ohala, John. 1978. Production of Tone. In V. A. Fromkin (ed.), Tone: A Linguistic Survey, 3–39. New York: Academic Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ohman, S. E.G. 1966. Coarticulation in VCV utterances: Spectrographic measurements. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 39. 151–168.Search in Google Scholar

Palmer, Adrian. 1969. Thai tone variants and the language teacher. Language Learning 19. 287–299.Search in Google Scholar

Peng, Shu-Hui. 1997. Production and perception of Taiwanese tones in different tonal and prosodic contexts. Journal of Phonetics 25. 371–400.Search in Google Scholar

Potisuk, Siripong, Jack Gandour & Mary Harper. 1997. Contextual variations in trisyllabic sequences of Thai tones. Phonetica 54. 22–42.Search in Google Scholar

Repp, Bruno. 1983. Bidirectional contrast effects in the perception of VC-CV sequences. Perception & Psychophysics 33(2). 147–155.Search in Google Scholar

Shen, Xiaonan Susan. 1989. Toward a register approach in teaching Mandarin tones. Journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association 24. 27–47.Search in Google Scholar

Shen, Xiaonan Susan. 1990. Tonal coarticulation in Mandarin. Journal of Phonetics 18. 281–295.Search in Google Scholar

Shih, Chiang & Richard Sproat. 1992. Variations of the Mandarin rising tone. In Proceedings of the IRCS workshop on prosody in natural speech. No. 92–37, 193–200. Philadelphia: The Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, University of Pennsylvania.Search in Google Scholar

Sun, Sylvia Henel. 1998. The development of a lexical tone phonology in American adult learners of standard Mandarin Chinese. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sweet, Henry. 1877. Handbook of phonetics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wang, Yue, Joan Sereno, Allard Jongman & Joy Hirsch. 2003. fMRI evidence for cortical modification during learning of Mandarin lexical tone. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 15(7). 1–9.Search in Google Scholar

Wang, Yue, Michelle Spence, Allard Jongman & Joan Sereno. 1999. Training American listeners to perceive Mandarin tones. Journal of Acoustical Society of America 106. 3649–3658.Search in Google Scholar

Wang, Yun-Jia. 1995. Ye tan meiguo ren xuexi hanyu shengdiao 也谈美国人学习汉语声调 [On American learners’ tone acquisition]. Language Teaching and Research 2. 126–140.Search in Google Scholar

Wang, Yun-Jia. 1997. Yangping de xietong fayin yu waiguoren xuexi yangping 阳平的协同发音与外国人学习阳平 [The coarticulation of Tone 2 and the acquisition of T2 by foreigners]. Language Teaching and Research 4. 94–104.Search in Google Scholar

White, Caryn. 1981. Tonal pronunciation errors and interference from English intonation. Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers’ Association 16(2). 27–56.Search in Google Scholar

Xu, Yi. 1994. Asymmetry in contextual tonal variation in Mandarin in Advances. In J.-W. Chang, J.-T. Huang, C.-W. Hue & O. J. L. Tzeng (eds.), Study of Chinese Language Processing, vol. 1, 383–396. Taipei: Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University.Search in Google Scholar

Xu, Yi. 1997. Contextual tonal variations in Mandarin. Journal of Phonetics 25. 61–83.Search in Google Scholar

Xu, Yi. 1999. F0 peak delay: When, where and why it occurs. In Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 1881–1884. International Phonetic Association.Search in Google Scholar

Yang, Bei. 2015. Perception and production of Mandarin tones by native speakers and L2 learners. New York: Springer.Search in Google Scholar

Yip, Moira. 1989. Contour tones. Phonology 6. 149–174.Search in Google Scholar

Yip, Moira. 2002. Tone. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Hang. 2010. Phonological universals and tone acquisition. Journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association 45(1). 39–65.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Hang. 2013. The second language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese tones by English, Japanese and Korean speakers. Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Hang. 2015. Positional effects in second language Chinese tones. Journal of Chinese Language Teaching 12(2). 1–30.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Hang. 2016. Dissimilation in the second language acquisition of Chinese tones. Second Language Research 32(3). 427–451.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Hang. 2018. Second Language Acquisition of Mandarin Chinese Tones—Beyond First-Language Transfer. Leiden: Brill.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Jie. 2002. The effects of duration and sonority on contour tone distribution–A typological survey and formal analysis. New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Zhu, Hua & Barbara Dodd. 2000. The phonological acquisition of Putonghua (Modern Standard Chinese). Journal of Child Language 27. 3–42.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2020-04-25
Published in Print: 2020-04-28

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston