WU TONE TOUR

A little guided tour of the variety of citation tone shapes in the Wu dialect area - in particular the variety in phonation type and tone contour. The data are colour-coded, which enables you to hear the tones the same words are said with in different dialects.

Start at the top and travel clockwise, ending in Shanghai. Mouseover the site name on the map to read about the site. To view the tonal acoustics and listen to the corresponding audio, click on the site name to open its window, and expand the window to view. It is a good idea, if you can, to keep the individual dialects' windows open to compare and contrast their tones. If you do that, you can get an idea of the variety of tonal shapes by focussing on how the tones plotted in black are said in each dialect (these are reflexes of the Middle Chinese Yinshang/IIa tone).

Changyinsha 长阴沙. A variety from the very north of the Wu area in Jiangsu Province, belonging to the Taihu 太湖, or "northern", linguistic area of Wu. It has a typical eight tone system including two short tones ending in glottal-stops. There is a clear register difference between four high register tones and four low register tones. Register correlates with phonation type, vowel quality, pitch onset height and Onset. Note there is no falling pitch tone and only one of the eight tones has a level pitch (the red Ia): you will see that Wu likes contour pitch tones!
Daishan 岱山. A variety from the island of Daishan, off the coast of north-east Zhejiang province. Like Changyinsha, it belongs to the Taihu linguistic area. As in Changyinsha, there are two short stopped tones and a clear register difference, with register correlating with phonation type, vowel quality, pitch onset height and Onset. Of interest is some between-speaker variation in tone, involving differential development of the Middle Chinese tonal categories ("same tone different category"). Comparison with the Changyinsha data will also furnish other examples. For example, the CYS high level tone is a reflex of Middle Chinese Ia, but the Daishan high level tone is the reflex of IIIa. Note only one of the tones has a level pitch (the cyan IIIa in the first speaker)
Tiantai Sanhezhen 天台 三合镇. A variety from the Taizhou 台州 linguistic area with tone breaking. There are the usual two short stopped tones and a clear register difference, with register correlating with phonation type, vowel quality, pitch onset height and Onset. Of greatest interest, though, is the tone breaking still found in some varieties, where phonation is interrupted and restored in mid Rhyme. This happens in both upper and lower register tones which are reflexes of Middle Chinese II/Shang category. This variety also sports decelerated falling pitch tones which contrast minimally with the broken tones. You can find out more about Taizhou tone-breaking on my Wu dialect tone page.
Pingyang 平阳 - a dialect from the Oujiang 瓯江 linguistic area in the south-east. Typical of Oujiang varieties is the loss of final glottal stops in tones of the Middle Chinese Ru category, accompanied by compensatory lengthening. This results in an eight tone system with the usual register differences correlating with phonation type, vowel quality, pitch onset height and Onset. The realsiation of the Middle Chinese IIa tone is interesting for several reasons. It is an example of a rising pitched tone being shorter, not longer, than other tones; it has complex allotony; and in the female speaker it has falsetto voice.
Longquan 龙泉 - a dialect from the Longqu 龙衢 part of the Chuqu 楚衢 linquistic area in the south west. It has tone-breaking similar to that you heard in Sanhezhen, but the effect is not so dramatic and it has happened in a tone of a different Middle Chinese category (Ia). Register differences are present, but they do not correlate with Onset, there being only a two-way contrast of syllable-initial stops. Short stopped tones are preserved.
Yingchuanzhen 英川阵 - a dialect from Jingning 景宁 county in the Longqu 龙衢 part of the Chuqu 楚衢 linquistic area in the south west. Short stopped tones are preserved. It is notable for the use of three distinct phonation types. It has a deliberate creaky offset in its falling tones - preserved word-internally - and the use of falsetto voice to signal the {familiar} morpheme. The lower stopped tone has breathy voice, but otherwise there is no clear register difference for the tones. There is no level tone.
Wuyunzhen 五云镇 - a dialect from Jinyun 缙云 county in the Longqu 龙衢 part of the Chuqu 楚衢 linquistic area. This Wuyunzhen speaker is notable for two different extrinsic phonation types - creaky and breathy - in her low register tones. The fall-rise and low rise tones are creaky and the mid fall and low rise-fall tones are breathy. Reflexes of Middle Chinese Ru tones have lengthened but have not merged with the other tones.
Jinzhu 金竹 - a dialect from Suichang 遂昌 county in the Longqu 龙衢 part of the Chuqu 楚衢 linquistic area in the west. Interesting because of three contrasting complex contour tones in the lower half of the pitch range. Short stopped tones are preserved.
Baimazhen 白马镇 - a dialect from Pujiang 浦江 county in the Wuzhou 婺州 linquistic area. Seven of its eight tones are contour and six of these have complex contours. Reflexes of Middle Chinese Ru tones have lengthened but have not merged with the other tones.
Shanghai tones are not as interesting as the others, having undergone considerable simplification through merger. As with other northern Wu varieties, there is clear register difference, with register correlating with phonation type, vowel quality, pitch onset height and Onset. But the overall number of tones is reduced to three in the upper register and two in the lower. You will, however, still recognise the two short stopped tones.
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