The realization of lexical tones in Sichuan opera

Jueyu LU

Research output: ThesisHonours Projects (HP)


The tonal-melodic relationship is essential in conveying the intended lyrical meaning in music of tonal languages. The new style of Chinese music, developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tended to employ an ordinal scale to manage relationships between tone and melody. In contrast, the compositional principle of traditional Chinese opera incorporates an incomplete ordinal mapping, which only applies to tone sequences that ascend or descend. When a tone sequence is consistent, the melody direction will exhibit a falling pattern rather than remaining at a plateau. This paper presents an experimental investigation of the relationship between tone and melody in Sichuan opera, as well as an examination of listeners’ technique for extracting lyrics. Through an opera analysis, we found that Sichuan opera aligns well with this traditional principle of composition. A perceptual experiment indicated that listeners utilize the mapping relationships prescribed by this composition principle to facilitate their extraction of lyrics. The adherence to the compositional principle in Sichuan opera ensures the musicality of the melody while retaining sufficient recognizability of lexical tones in the lyrics.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationBachelor of Arts (Honours)
  • LEE, Kwing Lok, Albert 李烱樂, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Sichuanese lexical tone
  • Musical melody
  • Perception
  • Honours Project (HP)
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Language Studies (Four-year Full-time)
  • Programme code: A4B067
  • Course code: LIN4039


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