Downstep, regressive upstep, H-raising, or what? -- Sorting out the phonetic mechanisms of a set of "phonological" phenomena

Yi Xu and Jiyeon Kim

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 100, Pt. 2, p. 2824. 1996

For a long time, downstep and H-raising have been considered to be two of the phonological processes that are partially responsible for generating the surface F0 contours in languages. Downstep refers to the lowering of the second H relative to the first one in a tone sequence of HLH. H-raising refers to the raising of the H in a HL sequence. Recently, Laniran and Clements suggest that in Yoruba, both phenomena may be viewed as the consequences of regressive upstep, a process by which a L raises a H that occurs earlier [Y.O. Laniran and G.N. Clements, Proc. 13th I.C.Ph.Sc., Vol. 2, 734-737. Stockholm (1995)]. Meanwhile, a series of studies on contextual tonal variations in Mandarin and Thai reveal phenomena also reminiscent of downstep and H-raising. Due to the natures of the tones in those languages, however, explanations in terms of phonetic mechanisms seemed to emerge. The present paper reports a study that examines both local and long distance contextual tonal variations in Mandarin. It is argued, based on data found in this study, that there are actually two phonetic mechanisms underneath all these phenomena: carryover assimilation and anticipatory dissimilation.

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