Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1–35 | Cite as

The productivity of variable disyllabic tone sandhi in Tianjin Chinese

  • Jie Zhang
  • Jiang Liu


Tianjin Chinese has one of the more complex tone sandhi systems in Northern Chinese dialects. Due to its close contact with Standard Chinese, many of its tone sandhi patterns are also variable. This article first reports a detailed acoustic study of tone sandhi patterns in both real lexical items and novel words in Tianjin. The data were collected from 48 speakers of Tianjin, who were instructed to pronounce disyllabic sequences as real words based on voice prompts. The results showed that the productivity of the sandhis in novel words varied depending on the sandhi—some were less productive than in real words, and some were more productive, indicating a combination of underlearning, overlearning, and proper learning of the sandhis from the lexicon. A theoretical model that predicts the productivity patterns based on the phonetic properties of the sandhis and statistical generalizations about the sandhis over the lexicon is then proposed.


Tone Tone sandhi Tianjin Productivity Optimality theory Maximum entropy grammar 



We are indebted to Ping Wang, Xiaoyu Zeng, and Feng Shi at Nankai University for hosting us during data collection and discussing various aspects of this project with us. We also thank Geng Wang for serving as our Tianjin language consultant and the speakers of Tianjin who participated in our experiment. We are grateful to the participants at GLOW-Asia 8 and the second Pan-American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics, especially James Myers, Doug Whalen, and Charles Yang, for their comments on this research. We, however, remain fully responsible for the opinions expressed here. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation grant BCS-0750773 and the University of Kansas General Research Fund 2301166.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 387 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 82 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 82 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Asian Languages and LiteraturesUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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