This page contains examples of the citation tones of a speaker from Wencheng 文成, in the Chinese province of Zhejiang. The dialects in the Wencheng area belong to the Oujiang 甌江 subgroup of the Wu 吳 dialects. Oujiang varieties are spoken in the south-eastern part of Zhejiang. Wencheng is a county located in the south-westen part of the Ou area, and the speaker comes from the county town. His tones are interesting because their neat pairing of upper and lower register pitch contours does not match the typical pattern for Wu. Read more about this here. Read about the recording of his tones here. Listen to the tones and inspect their acoustics here.

I used these Wencheng citation tone data to demonstrate how to probabilistically evaluate Chao's well-known 5 point model of tone description in my 2014 Interspeech paper Transcribing Tone – A likelihood-based quantitative evaluation of Chao's 'tone letters'.


The recording, made by Professor W.L. Ballard in April 1988, was 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 speaker is a male who was 21 years old when recorded. He was born in Wencheng and lived there until 19 years old.

Ballard compiled the corpus, and elicited the tones, according to their eight Middle Chinese tonal categories: Ia/Yingping, Ib/Yangping, IIa/Yinshang, IIb/Yangshang, IIIa/Yinqu, IIIb/Yangqu, IVa/Yinru, IVb/Yangru, in that sequence. Five examples of each of the eight cateories were included, each repeated three times after Ballard's numerical prompt. Click the following button to listen to Ballard's elicitation of the five tokens of the Ia/Yinping tone:

Ballard also recorded examples of the speaker's disyllabic tone-sandhi. This sandhi is of the so-called right-dominant type, and involves complex relationships between isolation tones and sandhi tones. You can listen to his disyllabic data, and inspect their tonal acoustics, here: Wencheng disyllabic tone sandhi.


The table below shows the speaker's citation tone acoustics (F0 as a function of absolute duration). It is arranged according to the conventional 2x4 matrix of Middle Chinese tonal categories (Yin Yang; Ping Shang Qu Ru. ). Each tone's Middle Chinese name is followed by the name of the Wencheng tone in capitals, followed by Ballard's Simplified Character elicitation text, and glosses.

I measured the acoustics from the first of the three replicates elicted for each token. You can hear these tokens by clicking on the play/pause button (should work with Chrome, other browsers not guaranteed, sorry!). The dotted lines in the graphs belong to the individual replicates; their arithmetical mean is shown with a thick red line. Note that, although the reflexes of Middle Chinese tones Yangping/Ib and Yinqu/IIIa are plotted in separate panels, you can hear they both have the same lower-mid level pitch. From a phonemic point of view they could be considered as allotones of the same /LOWER-MID LEVEL/ toneme conditioned by the nature of their syllable-initial onsets (the different onset-induced F0 perturbations are clear in the plots). However, these two tones trigger very different tone sandhi behaviour, and clearly constitute different morphotonemes.  

Yinping/Ia: UPPER-MID LEVEL tone

飞 fly, 高 tall, 东 east, 关 shut, 风 wind

Yinshang/IIa: HIGH RISING tone

酒 wine, 手 hand, 广 factory, 火 fire, 好 good


块 fast, 四 four, 信 letter, 跳 jump, 太 too

Yinru/IVa: LOW RISING tone

北 north, 雪 snow, 骨 bone, 发 put forth, 竹 bamboo

Yangping/Ib: LOWER-MID LEVEL tone

年 year, 田 field, 平 flat, 门 door, 长 long


被 blanket, 坐 sit, 马 horse, 肚 stomach, 象 elephant

Yangqu/IIIb: MID FALL-RISE tone

用 use, 饭 rice, 电 electricity, 面 face, 病 ill

Yangru/IVb: LOW FALL-RISE tone

月 month, 学 study, 石 stone, 白 white, 十 ten



The speaker’s seven citation tones comprise three neatly paired upper and lower register versions of level, rising and fall-rising contours, and a single upper register depressed level tone. This configuration can be seen in the figure to the left from my 2014Interpeech paper. In this figure, mean tonal F0 has been declination-adjusted and converted to semitones relative to the lowest F0 value (the scales on the left of each panel); scales to the right are Chao 5-point values, to show that not all tones' pitch targets (shown with stars) can be adequately represented by a five-point scale.

This pairing-by-contour arrangement is also shown in the table below, where the tones are named after their pitch, and their Middle Chinese tonal categories are also given in brackets. Note that the lower-mid level tone is a merged reflex of Middle Chinese categories Ib and IIIa (Yangping and Yinqu).

It is relatively common to find pitch contour pairing like this in conservative Wu varieties (although the depressed-level pitch shape is a bit unusual). However, typically in Wu the pitch register correlates with the phonatory nature of the syllable-onsets. For example, voiceless aspirated and unaspirated stop phonemes (like /ph, p/) occur in morphemes with high register pitch shapes, whereas stop phonemes on morphemes with low register pitch shapes are voiced (e.g. /b/), usually with voiceless lenis allophones word-initially alternating with modally voiced allophones word-internally). This continues what is assumed to be a Middle Chinese pattern.

This speaker's data, however, shows a disruption of the Wu, and Middle Chinese, pattern of correlation between syllable-onset and pitch register. He still has the typical three series of syllable-inital stop phonemes (e.g. /ph p b; th t d/) (and two phonemic sets of syllable-initial fricatives, e.g. /s z; f v./), as in other conservative Wu varieties; but they do not distribute in the expected way with respect to pitch register. For example, high and low rising pitch tones co-occur with the voiceless phonemes, the tones with fall-rising pitch both co-occur with the voiced, and the lower-mid level tone co-occurs with both voiced and voiceless series.

PITCH CONTOUR level rise fall-rise depressed level