Phonological Identity of the Neutral-tone Syllables in Taiwan Mandarin: An Acoustic Study

Keywords: Taiwan Mandarin, neutral tone, rhythm, lexical tone, stress, neutralization


Taiwan Mandarin, one of the more syllable-timed dialects of Mandarin, has fewer unstressed syllables than Standard Mandarin. Acoustic analyses show that the supposedly unstressed syllables—neutral-tone syllables—in Taiwan Mandarin behave differently from those of Standard Mandarin. Unlike Standard Mandarin, these syllables do not raise their pitch after Tone 3. They have a distinct static mid-low pitch target and the target is implemented with a stronger articulatory strength. Moreover, acoustic analyses demonstrate that not all of these “unstressed syllables” are unstressed. The phonetic evidence suggests that these neutral-tone syllables should be analyzed as unaccented rather than unstressed in Taiwan Mandarin. These unaccented syllables are only lexically marked, and their pitch is neutralized into a mid-low tone. This study sheds light on how rhythm can affect stress and accent in a lexical tone language.

Author Biography

Karen HUANG, The University of Auckland

Karen Huang is a Lecturer in Chinese at the School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, the University of Auckland.


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How to Cite
HUANG, K. (2018). Phonological Identity of the Neutral-tone Syllables in Taiwan Mandarin: An Acoustic Study. Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 8(2), 9-50.
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