Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



Neutral tone in Mandarin is generally believed to lack tonal identity and exhibit more variability in its phonetic realization. We examined the tonal target of neutral tone in a prosodic word consisting of a full syllable (S) and one, two, or three neutral-tone syllables. In the experiment, the test words, presented in isolation and embedded in a carrier sentence, were read in two intonation patterns: declarative and interrogative. The results showed: (1) the tonal target of neutral tone is L(ow) at the end of the intonation phrase in declarative intonation and M(id) in question intonation; (2) its phonetic realization is influenced by intonation patterns, the tone of S and the number of neutral-tone syllables in the prosodic word; (3) the influence of the tone of S is more robust in shorter sequences than in longer ones with three neutral-tone syllables; (4) placement of the F0 peak in T2 (LH) and the neutral tone immediately following T3 (L) is susceptible to the number of neutral-tone syllables. It seems clear from our study that while the tonal target of neutral tone is related to prosodic structure, its actual F0 scaling is sensitive to prosodic manipulations such as intonation patterns and prosodic word length. In addition, of neutral tone allows for more freedom in the alignment of the F0 peak, whose temporal coordination with its segmental host is, nevertheless, subject to both phonological and phonetic constraints.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): intonation patterns; Mandarin Chinese; neutral tone; peak alignment; tonal target
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