Publication Date



College of Arts and Sciences




Mandarin Chinese, Linguistics, Autosegmental, Prosody, Phonology


Linguistics | Phonetics and Phonology


Autosegmental Phonology (Goldsmith, 1979) is a theoretical framework for understanding the phonological effects of suprasegmentals such as tone, stress, etc. Using data taken from an experiment in which Mandarin Chinese tone sandhi (the acknowledged rules governing specific tone shifts across segments) is explored, a number of phonologists, specifically Kenstowicz (2003), have shown that the relationship between the segment and the tone is autonomous. In the experiment, non-sense words with a potential tone sandhi rule are presented to the Mandarin speakers. The speakers automatically apply the tone sandhi rule which is then analyzed using an autosegmental framework. The speakers consciously separate the tones from the non-sense words and apply tone sandhi rules; the application of the tone sandhi rule is independent of semantic meaning.

This research is expanded to include the exploration of loanword phonology (the phonological changes that occur when a tonal language borrows non-tonal language words) to further understand the autonomous relationship between tones and segments. As can be seen in the following example, the English word Disney: di2-si1-ni2 (numbers account for the differing tones), certain tones are distributed to loanwords.