Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1877-7031
  • E-ISSN: 1877-8798
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This study examines tone mergers in Hong Kong Cantonese from the perspective of variationist sociolinguistics. It approaches the issue of whether Cantonese has six or nine tones by focusing on two ongoing tone mergers: (1) the merger of T3 and T6, and (2) the merger of T8 and T9. Speech data from fifty native Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong were collected and analyzed. The change routes and constraint patterns of the two mergers were compared and found to be similar. The results support the six-tone system for Hong Kong Cantonese. This study serves as an example of how the variationist approach can be used in phonological debates.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bauer, Robert S., and Benedict, Paul K.
    1997Modern Cantonese Phonology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110823707
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110823707 [Google Scholar]
  2. Bauer, Robert S., Cheung, Kwan-Hin, and Cheung, Pak Man
    2003 “Variation and Merger of the Rising Tones in Hong Kong Cantonese”. Language Variation and Change15: 211–225. 10.1017/S0954394503152039
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394503152039 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bei, Xianming 貝先明 and Xiang, Ning 向檸
    2016 “穗、港、澳三地粵語單字調的聲學比較分析 [A Comparison Study on the Citation Tone in Cantonese Spoken in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau via Acoustic Analyses]”. 南開語言學 [Naikai Linguistics] Volume1: 43–50.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Boersma, Paul and Weenink, David
    2010 Praat: doing phonetics by computer (version 5.1.29). Available fromwww.praat.org/ [Computer program].
  5. Chao, Yuen Ren
    1947Cantonese Primer, New York: Greenwood Press. 10.4159/harvard.9780674732438
    https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674732438 [Google Scholar]
  6. Cheung, Kwan-Hin 張群顯
    2016 “從中古四聲到現代粵語六調 [From Ping-Shang-Qu-Ru of Middle Chinese to the Six Tones of Present-day Cantonese]”, InNew horizons in the study of Chinese: Dialectology, grammar, and philology: Studies in honor of Professor Anne Yue, eds byPang-Hsin Ting, Samuel Hung-nin Cheung, Sze-Wing Tang, Andy Chin, 361–384, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Cheung, Hung-nin Samuel 張洪年
    2002 “21世紀的香港粵語:一個新語音系統的形成Cantonese of the 21st Century: Formation of a New Phonological System in Hong Kong Language]”, 暨南大學學報(哲學社會科學版)[Journal of Jinan University (Philosophy & Social Science Edition)]. Volume24, 25–40.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Cheung, Hung-nin Samuel
    2007A Grammar of Cantonese Spoken in Hong Kong (Revised Edition). Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Cheung, Kwan-Hin
    1986 The Phonology of Present-day Cantonese, Doctoral dissertation ofUniversity of London.
  10. Chu, Patrick Chun Kau and Taft, Marcus
    2011 “Are there Six or Nine Tones in Cantonese?” InProceedings of Psycholinguistic Representation of Tone (PLRT) Conference, 58–61, Hong Kong, August22–23.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Fung, Roxana, Kung, Carmen, Law, Sampo, Su, I Fan, and Wong, Cathy
    2012 Near-merger in Hong Kong Cantonese tones: A behavioural and ERP study. InProceedings of the Third International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages (TAL2012), Nanjing, China, May26–29. https://www.isca-speech.org/archive/tal_2012/papers/tl12_S1-04.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Fung, Roxana S. Y. and Wong Cathy, S. P.
    2011 Acoustic Analysis of the New Rising Tone in Hong Kong Cantonese. InProceedings of 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 715–718, Hong Kong, August17–21 2011 https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cdab/06dd2f5e616459b8840011f1703cb4e69acb.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  13. 2012 “The Mandarinization of Hong Kong Cantonese Tones”. In基於本體特色的漢語研究:慶祝薛鳳生教授八十華誕文集[Ontological Studies of the Chinese Language: The Festschrift in Honor of Professor Xue Fengsheng on his 80th Birthday], eds. byShi Jianguo, Geng Zhengshen and Yang Yiming, 289–299, Beijing: China Social Sciences Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Ho, Hsiu Hwang, & Kwan, Tze-wan
    2001 “Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan: Chinese Character Frequency”, available athumanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/chifreq/, accessed20 September 2018.
  15. Holmes, Janet
    1992An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Hombert, Jean-Marie, Ohala, John J. and Ewan, William G.
    1979 Phonetic Explanations for the Development of Tones. Language. Volume55, Issue1, pp.37–58. 10.2307/412518
    https://doi.org/10.2307/412518 [Google Scholar]
  17. Johnson, Daniel Ezra
    2009 Getting off the GoldVarb Standard: Introducing Rbrul for Mixed-effects Variable Rule Analysis. Language and Linguistics Compass3: 359–383. 10.1111/j.1749‑818X.2008.00108.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2008.00108.x [Google Scholar]
  18. Labov, William
    1972Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. 1981 Resolving the Neogrammarian Controversy. Language57 (2): 267–308. 10.2307/413692
    https://doi.org/10.2307/413692 [Google Scholar]
  20. 2001Principles of Linguistic Change. Volume II: Social Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Ladefoged, Peter and Johnson, Keith
    2014A Course in Phonetics (7th edition). Cengage Learning.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Lam, Kin Ping
    2001 “粵語聲調說略 [A Brief Introduction on the Cantonese Tone Value]”, in 新世紀的現代語音學 [Modern Phonetics in the New Century] eds. byCai Lianhong , 229–232, Beijing: Tsinghua University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Lehiste, Ilse
    1970Suprasegmentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Matthews, Stephen and Yip, Virginia
    1994Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. 2011Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar (2nd edition). London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Mei, Tsu-lin
    1970 “Tones and Prosody in Middle Chinese and the Origin of the Rising Tone”. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies30: 86–110. 10.2307/2718766
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2718766 [Google Scholar]
  27. Mok, Peggy P. K., Zuo, Donghui and Wong, Peggy W. Y.
    2013 “Production and Perception of a Sound Change in Progress: Tone Merging in Hong Kong Cantonese”. Language Variation and Change25(3): 341–370. 10.1017/S0954394513000161
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394513000161 [Google Scholar]
  28. Norman, Jerry
    1988Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Peng, Gang
    2006 “Temporal and Tonal Aspects of Chinese Syllables: A Corpus-based Comparative Study of Mandarin and Cantonese”. Journal of Chinese Linguistics34 (1): 134–154.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Sun, Jackson T.-S.
    2010 “Tone Categorization in Taiwanese: A Case Study in Concept Formation”. Journal of Chinese Linguistics38 (1): 115–133.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Tagliamonte, Sali
    2011Variationist Sociolinguistics: Change, Observation, Interpretation. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Wang, William S-Y.
    1982 “A Note on Tone Development”. InWang Li Memorial Volumes (English Volume), ed. by theChinese Language SocietyofHong Kong, 435–443, Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Company.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Wong, Shik Ling
    1941A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced according to the Dialect of Canton. Hong Kong: Chung Hwa Book Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Xu, Daming
    2015 Speech Community and Linguistic Urbanization: Sociolinguistic Theories Developed in China, InGlobalizing Sociolinguistics: Challenging and Expanding Theoryeds. byDick Smakman and Patrick Heinrich, 95–106, London and New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Yiu, Carine Y.
    2009 “香港粵語上聲變化初探──實驗語音學研究 [A Preliminary Study on the Change of Rising Tones in Hong Kong Cantonese: An Experimental Study]”. Language and Linguistics10: 269–291.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Zhang, Jingwei
    2014A Sociophonetic Study on Tonal Variation of the Wuxi and Shanghai Dialects. Utrecht: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke Onderzoekschool Taalwetenschap (LOT).
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error