Thesis Open Access

Towards and Articulatory Model of Tone: A Cross-Linguistics Investigation

Karlin, Robin

This thesis examines the role of timing information in phonological representation, fo
cusing on how tone aligns with segmental material. On the basis of three acoustic studies, I
present a novel gestural model of tone representation, where tone gestures are durationally
underspecified and receive their timing information from the constellation of segmental ges
tures they are coordinated with. I also argue that the distributional and temporal char
acteristics of tone are the direct result of gestural coordination: phonological association
can be analyzed as the existence of coordinative relationships between a tone gesture and a
constellation of segmental gestures, and the precise nature of that coordinative relationship
produces the cross-linguistically variable acoustics.

Chapter 1 delineates two major approaches to tone representation: Autosegmental(
Metrical), which references point-like features and nominal time, and Articulatory Phonol
ogy, which uses gestures that unfold over time and space. I discuss the different ways in
which each theory arrives at phonetic realization from underlying representation, as well as
their differing notions of overlap.

Chapter 2 presents the results of an acoustic study on contour tones in Thai (Tai-Kadai),
a tone language where the mora serves as a licensing unit for tone. Counter previous hy
potheses, tonal extrema do not map to moraic edges: both moraic edges and tone extrema
instead independently refer to the syllable as a unit of timing. Based on these results, I argue
that the apparent acoustic mismatches can be straightforwardly derived from the application
of different coordinative modes between tonal and segmental gestures, while maintaining the
phonological licensing relationship between moras and tones. The data also suggests that the
F0 targets of tone gestures play a role in tone timing, indicating that there is an interaction
between the tone gesture and segmental gestures when determining duration.

Chapter 3 presents the results of an acoustic study focused on the realization of the
falling accent in the Belgrade and Valjevo dialects of Serbian (Indo-European—Slavic), a
tone language where one syllable per word is specified for tone. I compare the alignment
and duration of pitch excursions across varying phonetic and phonological properties of the
syllable onset of the tone-bearing syllable. I show that the duration of pitch excursions
increases with phonetically longer syllable onsets, which indicates that tone gestures are
durationally underspecified and receive their timing information from the constellation of
segmental gestures they are coordinated with. The two dialects also exhibit distinct patterns
of both the duration and the alignment of the pitch excursion, and I argue that this is due
to differences in the type of coordination used.

Chapter 4 focuses on the rising accents of the same dialects of Serbian, crucially examining
the Valjevo dialect, which routinely retracts the pitch peak into the syllable preceding the
H-bearing syllable. Despite this phonetic retraction, the patterns of alignment parallel those
observed for the falling accent. This indicates that the tone gesture is still receiving timing
information from the H-bearing syllable, and as such is still coordinated to it. Based on these
results, I argue for the availability of gestural target coordination, in addition to gestural
onset coordination.

In Chapter 5 I synthesize the findings from the experimental chapters to present a gestural
model of tone representation, and discuss its implications for Articulatory Phonology and
avenues for future research

This thesis is copyrighted, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) - see
Files (9.2 MB)
Name Size
9.2 MB Download
All versions This version
Views 285285
Downloads 4040
Data volume 367.9 MB367.9 MB
Unique views 217217
Unique downloads 3535


Cite as