Dissertation Proposal Defense: Tian

May 24, 2019 at - | Linguistics Library -- 3401C Walnut St., Suite 300

Jia Tian will be defending her dissertation proposal on Friday, May 24 at 10:30am in the Linguistics Library.

All are welcome to attend.

The abstract is below, and the proposal document can be found here:  <https://www.ling.upenn.edu/~jiatian/proposal_Tian.pdf> 

Working title: On the paths from voicing contrast to tonal contrast

Advisor: Jianjing Kuang

Proposal Committee: Eugene Buckley (Chair), Mark Liberman, Don Ringe

Date & Time: 10:30am-12:00pm May 24, Linguistics Library 3401C Walnut St. Suite 300


The voicing contrast is one of the most important linguistic features of human languages. Cross-linguistically, there is considerable variation in both phonological representation and phonetic realization. Moreover, within the same language, the phonetic realization of the phonological contrast is highly affected by phonetic contexts such as adjacent sounds and prosodic conditions. As a result, the sound change of voicing contrast can develop different paths in different languages. It can also develop different paths in the same language depending on the phonetic context.

The voicing contrast in Shanghainese is currently undergoing two sound changes. Word-initially, onset voicing contrast is giving rise to contrastive tones. Word-medially, voiced and voiceless stops are merging. The change of the voicing contrast has several stages: 1) before change, voicing contrast existed in all positions in the history. 2) in the intermediate stage, VOT distinction only exists in the word-medial position. Word-initially, there is hardly any VOT distinction—both categories are phonetically voiceless unaspirated—and the contrast is realized as phonation and pitch differences on the following vowels. 3) recently, younger speakers no longer produce phonation difference in the word-initial position, and rely only on pitch. I also noticed that the voicing contrast in the word-medial position is merging in younger speakers’ production.

The study of voicing contrast in Shanghainese is of considerable theoretical importance. By testing the production and perception of Shanghainese speakers in different stages of the change, we will be able to better understand how voicing contrast turns into tonal contrast.