Syllable isochrony and the prosodic features of stop syllables in Cantonese

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Cantonese is a syllable-timed language, i.e., syllable is the isochronous unit of speech. However, in Cantonese there is a type of closed syllables with stop codas [-p], [-t], or [-k] (i.e., syllables with “entering-tones”) and sound much shorter than other syllables. The shorter duration of stop syllables and the general syllable-isochronous prosodic feature seem to conflict on the surface. This study conducted acoustic investigations to stop syllables of Cantonese in different contexts, i.e., in isolated form, in disyllabic words, in disyllabic words located at the beginning, middle, and final positions of sentences. The results showed that stop syllables alone are shorter than non-stop syllables in various contexts. However, in disyllabic words or in sentences, there is a supplementary lengthening effect immediately after the stop syllables: there is more acoustic blank, and in some circumstances the initial of the following syllable is lengthened. Therefore, we propose that the phonetic realization of syllable isochrony is beyond syllable itself in Cantonese. Results and discussions of this study may also shed light to the problem of the vanishing of “entering tones” among various Chinese dialects. Copyright © 2019 FoCaL-2.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


Zhang, L. (2019, June). Syllable isochrony and the prosodic features of stop syllables in Cantonese. Paper presented at The Second Forum on Cantonese Linguistics (FoCaL-2), The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


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