Temporal and tonal aspects of Chinese syllables: A corpus-based comparative study of mandarin and cantonese

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies on temporal and tonal aspects of languages are usually based on limited data from a small number of subjects. It is difficult to know whether these findings can really represent the general temporal and tonal aspects of continuous speech, or just the speech of the specific subjects involved. Because of this difficulty it may not be appropriate to directly apply these findings to current speech technologies. In this study, large vocabulary continuous speech databases for Mandarin and Cantonese, recorded from large populations of subjects, are used to investigate the temporal and tonal aspects of syllables in continuous speech. Our findings include the following. No obvious temporal compensation effect has been found between the syllable initial (null initial being the sole exception) and the syllable final; Cantonese syllables exhibit less variation than Mandarin, achieving better isochrony. Then, following the example of the vowel balloons pioneered by Peterson and Barney, the tones of Mandarin and Cantonese with two parameters: F 0 height and F 0 slope, have been analyzed. Some linguistic hypotheses for tone development are advanced in the discussion of the tone balloons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-154
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Chinese Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cantonese
  • Isochrony
  • Mandarin
  • Temporal compensation
  • Tone
  • Tone chart

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language


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