This page contains examples of disyllabic tone sandhi in a speaker from the county of Wencheng 文成, in the south of the Chinese province of Zhejiang. The speaker is from the county town, also called Wencheng.

The dialects in the Wencheng area belong to the Oujiang 甌江 subgroup of Wu 吳, itself a first-order subgroup of Sinitic. Oujiang varieties are spoken in the south-eastern part of Zhejiang province and Wencheng is in the south-westen part of the Ou area. The sandhi exemplified here is of a type known as right-dominant. Read more about right-dominant sandhi here. You can listen to the tone sandhi and look at the acoustics here, but if you have not yet done so, it might be better to listen to the speaker's isolation tones first, here. Read about the recording here.


Right-dominant, or right-focused is a typological term referring to a kind of tone sandhi common in the sandhi zone of the South-Eastern coastal provinces in China. In right-dominant tone sandhi, it is predominantly the tones on the morphemes on the rightmost syllables of a word or utterance which determine its sandhi shape. The tone on the word-final syllable is said to be preserved, and tonal contrasts on the preceding syllables tend to be neutralised, although not by the spreading typically found in Northern Wu left-dominant systems: the neutralisation groupings are often complicated, and their realisation likewise. These characteristics are things to listen and look for in the Wencheng data below.

The distinction between left- and right- dominant systmes was, I think, first mentioned by Ballard in his 1984 Cahiers de Lingistique Asie Orientale paper: Wu, Min and a Little Hakka – Tone Sandhi: Right and Left. The typological distinction between left- and right-dominant systems is discussed in detail in Jie ZHANG's 2007 J. East Asian Linguistics paper: A directional asymmetry in Chinese tone sandhi systems.


The examples on this page are from a recording of a 21 year-old male made by Prof. William Ballard in April 1988 as part of his survey of tones and tone sandhi in southern Wu varieties. His generosity in making the data available for analysis is gratefully acknowledged. The informant was born in Wencheng in 1967 and lived there until 19 years old.

To elicit the data, Ballard chose disyllabic expressions to exemplify all combinations of the eight Middle Chinese tones (Yinping, yangping etc.). There were three different expressions for each tonal combination, each repeated three times after Ballard's numerical prompt. Click the following button to listen to Ballard's elicitation of the three items with the tonal combination of Ia/Yingping + Ib/Yangping (高楼 highrise building, 安排 arrange, 天桥 flyover): .

Most of the disyllabic expressions Ballard used are compound words with a morphological structure of either synonym e.g. 安排 arrange = { 安 install } + {排 arrange}, or attribute-head e.g. 高楼 highrise building = {高 high } + {楼 building}. There are also a few verb-object phrases. (These terms are from the sections on morphological constructions in Kratochvil's 1968 book The Chinese Language Today).


In the table below I have set out all the disyllabic combinations elicited by Ballard. They are arranged by the etymological (Middle Chinese) tone of the first-syllable morpheme "T1" down the left-hand column, and by the etymological tone of the word-final morpheme "T2" along the top row. You can also click on the play/pause buttons in the top row to hear examples of the corresponding isolation tone. Ballard's elicitation text is given in the Simplified Chinese characters that he used, together with glosses. The few verb-object constructions in the corpus are shown in green. Normally one would expect them to have different sandhi from the lexical items, but for this speaker this appears not to be the case. Items with unexpected tonal pitch are shown in blue.

I have extracted and plotted the tonal acoustics - F0 as a function of absolute duration - of the first of the three replicates of each expression Ballard elicited. Thin dotted lines show the values of the individual expressions; thick lines show their mean value. Dashed lines show the F0 on phonemically voiced intervocalic consonants. You can expand the figures for closer examination by cliking on them. Clicking again will shrink them. You can also listen to the expressions by clicking on the play/pause buttons (should work for Chrome; no guarantees for other browsers, sorry).


Here are a couple of right-dominant characteristics to listen for and check out in the acoustics.

click on individual figures to expand for inspection; click again to contract



T2= upper-mid level


T2= lower-mid level


T2= high rise


T2= depressed upper-mid level


T2= lower-mid level


T2= mid fall-rise


T2= low rise


T2= low fall-rise


T1 =

upper-mid level



飞机 airplane

松香 rosin

西瓜 cucumber

高楼 highrise building

安排 arrange

天桥 flyover

高考 college entrance exam

辛苦 tough

甘草 liquorice

亲眼 with your own eyes

风雨 wind and rain

弟兄 brothers

功课 lessons

花布 printed cloth

仓库 granary

公事 public matters

方便 convenient

山洞 cave

青竹 young bamboo

方法 method

公式 formula

中学 middle school

单独 single

生活 work


lower-mid level



田鸡 frog

农村 village

长衫 gown


羊毛 wool

银行 bank

皮球 rubber ball

门口 doorway

鞋底 sole

长短 length

行动 move

形像 image

文件 document

长凳 bench

文化 culture

脾气 mood

同事 workmate

程度 extent

长寿 long life

牛骨 oxbone

毛笔 writing brush

头发 hair

留学 study abroad

零食 snack

明白 understand


high rise



点心 dimsum

火车 train

普通 ordinary

酒瓶 wine bottle

党员 party member

粉红 pink

口齿 enuncitation

小巧 exquisite

保险 insure

表演 perform

改造 reconstruct

处理 manage

板凳 stool

打算 intend

宝贝 precious

体面 face

子弹 bullet

本地 local

改革 reform


本国 one's own country

酒席 banquet

普及 universal

主食 staple diet


depressed upper-mid level



被窝 quilt

尾巴 tail

坐车 ride

市场 market

肚皮 stomach

象棋 chess

市长 mayor

老酒 booze

动手 start work

远近 distance

罪犯 criminal

旅社 hostel

眼镜 glasses

罪过 offence

动态 trend

社会 society

近视 near-sighted

部队 troops

负责 be responsible for

道德 moral

市尺 unit of length

断绝 be cut off

动物 animal

静脉 vein


lower-mid level



快车 express train

四方 on all sides

背心 waistcoat

借条 receipt

报酬 pay

太平 peace

对比 contrast

跳板 springboard

报纸 newspaper

报社 newspaper office

靠近 near to

对象 sweetheart

世界 world

快信 express letter

故意 intentionally

态度 attitude

见面 to meet

半路 in mid journey

爱国 patriotic

印刷 to print

快速 intentionally

性别 sex

半日 quite a while

势力 influence


mid fall-rise



树根 root

饭厅 cafeteria

地方 place

地球 earth

病人 patient

外行 layman

外省 other provinces

妄想 wishful thinking

大小 size

附近 nearby

运动 exercise

大米 rice

内战 civil war

旧货 junk

饭店 hotel

命令 order

外地 other places

寿命 lifespan

问答 questions & answers

字帖 copybook

办法 method

树叶 leaf

饭盒 lunchbox

大学 university


low rise



浙江 Zhejiang province

骨科 orthopedics

北风 north wind

足球 football

国旗 national flag

色盲 colourblind

作品 works

铁索 iron cable

出口 export

国语 national language

尺码 size

接近 move close to

百货 general merchanise

黑布 black cloth

脚气 beri-beri

革命 revolution

一定 definitely

发病 outbreak of illness

赤脚 barefoot

铁塔 pylon

发作 lose temper

骨肉 flesh & blood

吃力 tired

复杂 complicated


low fall-rise



月光 moon

别针 pin

实心 sincere

毒蛇 poisonous snake

月台 platform

袜底 stocking sole

肉体 flesh

日本 Japan

物理 physics

活动 activity

白象 white elephant

热气 hot air

白布 calico

学费 tuition fees

服务 serve

实话 truth

热饭 hot food

蜡烛 candle

合作 cooperate

白铁 tin

学习 study

白药 medicinal powder

植物 plant