Interdependence between Tones, Segments and Phonation types in Shanghai Chinese: acoustics, articulation, perception and evolution

Résumé :
This study bears on the phonetic correlates of the yin vs. yang tone registers of Shanghai Chinese as spoken in Shanghai urban area. Our acoustic, articulatory, and perceptual investigations showed that beside F0, multidimensional cues, such as voicing (voiced for yang vs. voiceless for yin), duration pattern (low C/V ratio for yang vs. high C/V ratio for yin), and phonation type (breathy for yang vs. modal for yin) enter in the specification of tone register. Among all these cues, we attempt to distinguish the redundant features related to coarticulatory effects from those that are remnants of diachronic changes. In particular, the breathy voice accompanying yang tones, which is a redundant feature, arose from a tonal evolution, namely the transphonologization of a voicing contrast into a tone register contrast, that is, the “tone split.” We propose that the loss of a redundant feature arisen from a diachronic change may be very slow if that feature does not conflict with co
articulatory effects and/or if that feature has a perceptual function.
Based on the synchronic data from the speakers of two generations (20-30 years vs. 60-80 years), we find a trend toward the loss of this breathy phonation. We also find that this evolution is more advanced in women than men of the same age. In our study, we try to explain this change by internal factors as well as by external factors.