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Jianjing Kuang

Wednesday, February 20th at 1:30 p.m., Jianjing Kuang will give a colloquium in the UCSD Linguistics Department, in AP&M 4301.

The role of phonation in the dispersion of tonal contrasts

Phonological contrasts are structured in a phonetic space that is shaped by a balance of the influence of both perception and production. Because of the limitations of pitch production and perception, multiple level-tone contrasts are typologically dispreferred because they violate both major dispersion principles: maximize auditory distance and minimize articulatory effort. To understand the tonal dispersion of a multiple level-tone system, this study explores the cues used in producing and perceiving tones in Black Miao, a language with five-level tones–the maximum pitch contrasts attested in the world’s languages. The tonal spaces of Black Miao are modeled based on production and perception experiments conducted in the field. The results show that non-modal phonations are very important cues for these tonal contrasts. Non-modal phonations significantly contribute to the dispersion of the five level tones in two ways: either by enhancing pitch targets or by providing an additional contrastive cue. The new tonal model proposed in this paper sheds light on the different uses of non-modal phonations as part of tone systems across languages.