Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-7031
  • E-ISSN: 1877-8798
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This paper presents a study of segment duration in Chinese disyllabic words. The study accounts for boundary-related factors at levels of syllable, word, prosodic unit, and discourse unit. Face-to-face conversational speech data annotated with signal-aligned, multi-layer linguistic information was used for the analysis. A series of quantitative results show that Chinese disyllabic words have a long first syllable onset and a long second syllable rhyme, suggesting an edge effect of disyllabic words. This is in line with disyllabic merger in Chinese that preserves the onset of the first syllable and the rhyme of the second syllable. A shortening effect at prosodic and discourse unit initiation locations is due to a duration reduction of the second syllable onset, whereas the common phenomenon of pre-boundary lengthening is mainly a result of the second syllable rhyme prolongation including the glide, nucleus, and coda. Morphologically inseparable disyllabic words in principle follow the “long first onset and long second rhyme” duration pattern. But diverse duration patterns were found in words with a head-complement and a stem-suffix construction, suggesting that word morphology may also play a role in determining the duration pattern of Chinese disyllabic words in conversational speech.


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