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Yiya Chen and Carlos Gussenhoven
Journal of the International Phonetic Association / Volume 45 / Issue 03 / December 2015, pp 321 - 337
DOI: 10.1017/S0025100315000043, Published online: 15 December 2015
Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0025100315000043
How to cite this article:
Yiya Chen and Carlos Gussenhoven (2015). Shanghai Chinese. Journal of the International
Phonetic Association, 45, pp 321-337 doi:10.1017/S0025100315000043
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ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE IPA Shanghai Chinese
Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) & Leiden Institute for Language and Cognition (LIBC)
Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen
Shanghai Chinese (Shanghainese; ) is a Wu dialect (ISO 639-3; code: wuu)spoken
in the city of Shanghai (CN-31), one of the four municipalities in the People’s Republic of
China. Over the last century, the dialect has been heavily inﬂuenced by neighbouring dialects
spoken in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, such as Jianghuai Mandarin (),
the Suzhou Wu dialect (), and the Ningbo Wu dialect (), in addition
to two other, more distant dialects, Cantonese () and Northern Mandarin (
). Most native speakers of Shanghai Chinese are in fact descendants of immigrants from
Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces who moved to Shanghai in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth century. More recently, the position of Shanghai Chinese has been eroded with
the inﬂux of immigrants from other parts of the country and the widespread adoption of
Standard Chinese. Today, virtually all speakers also speak (Shanghainese-accented) Standard
Chinese. There has been considerable research on the synchronic and diachronic changes of
the dialect. Representative works include Xu & Tang (1962) on socially stratiﬁed variation in
Shanghainese; Qian (2003)andHu(2003), which provide detailed accounts of the evolution
of Shanghainese over the last century; Liu (2004), which focuses on the sound structure of
Shanghainese and attempts to trace its historical development; Shi & Jiang (1987), which
reports signiﬁcant individual variation among speakers of broadly similar age (born between
1928 and 1948); Xu, Tang & Tang (1982) on synchronic variation in Shanghai Chinese; and
Xu, Tang & Tang (1988), which investigates variation among three generations of ten families
(grandparents: born between 1807 and 1915; parents: 1930–1948; and children: 1967–1968).
Shanghai Chinese is generally understood to be the modern dialect spoken in the urban
districts that were recognized as the city centre of Shanghai before the incorporation of various
surrounding suburbs and towns into the municipality since the 1980s. The dialect is therefore
also known as, the ‘Shanghai urban variety’, as opposed to , the ‘Shanghai
suburban variety’ (see Xu & Tao 1997 for further details and You 2010 for a detailed survey of
the sound system changes in suburban varieties). The commonly recognized ﬁrst attempt at a
systematic description of Shanghai Chinese is Edkins (1853). Since the beginning of the 20th
century, various aspects of the sound structure of Shanghai Chinese have been investigated,
Journal of the International Phonetic Association (2015) 45/3 C
International Phonetic Association
322 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
Figure 1 f0 tracks of the morphemes /tɔ1/ ‘knife’, /tɔ2/ ‘island’, /dɔ3/ ‘peach’, /tʊʔ4/ ‘to supervise’, and /dʊʔ5/ ‘to read’
exemplifying the ﬁve lexical tones.
with some providing an overview (e.g. Chao 1928, Sherard 1972,Xu&Tang1988,Xu&Tao
1997), some addressing segmental properties (e.g. Ren 1992, Shen, Wooters & Wang 1987,
Ping 2005, and Z. Chen 2010 on consonant production; Svantesson 1989 and Chen 2008a on
vowels), and most focusing upon lexical tone and tone sandhi (e.g. Zee & Maddieson 1980;
Shen 1981a,b,1982,1985; Xu, Tang & Qian 1981,1982,1983;Jin1986; Rose 1993;Zhu
1999;Z.Chen2007;Chen2008b). Shanghai Chinese has also been taken as an important
case language in the development of phonetic and phonological theories of tone realization
(e.g. Selkirk & Shen 1990; Duanmu 1995,1997,1999;M.Chen2000;Yip2002;Chen2011)
and syllable structure (e.g. Duanmu 1994,2008).
The present description is accompanied by recordings of a female native speaker who was
born in the 1950s and grew up in the Huangpu District. According to Xu & Tao (1997), she
belongs to the Middle Generation Shanghainese group of speakers (), those
born roughly around 1940–1965.1She has lived mostly in the Netherlands since 1989, but
visits Shanghai regularly. She speaks mainly Shanghai Chinese at home. Our motivation for
the present account is not only to bring together existing descriptions of Shanghainese in an
accessible form, but also to propose a number of analytical innovations relative to traditional
treatments of the Shanghainese data. These are: (i) the analysis of prevocalic glottal stop
[Ɂ]and voiced [ɦ]as allophonic features of onsetless syllables conditioned by tone; (ii) the
rejection of [i]or [j]in dipthongs/triphthongs following the alveolo-palatal obstruents; (iii)
the rejection of a fricative vowel symbol in favour of a syllabic fricative; (iv) the absence of a
contrastive palatal nasal; and (v) the interpretation of the front rounded glide as allophonic.
Shanghai Chinese has evolved from the eight-tone system recorded in Edkins (1853)to
the current ﬁve-tone system (Qian 2003). Figure 1 illustrates the f0 contours of the ﬁve
tones (T1–T5) uttered in isolation (i.e. /tɔ1/ ‘knife’, /tɔ2/ ‘island’, /dɔ3/ ‘peach’, /tʊʔ4/‘to
supervise/check’, and /dʊʔ5/ ‘to read’) by our female speaker.2
1Speakers born around the 1920s are classiﬁed as speakers of Old Generation Shanghainese, while
speakers born after 1965 are taken to speak New Generation Shanghainese. This classiﬁcation is mainly
based upon the investigation reported in Xu, Tang & Tang (1988) on Shanghainese spoken by 30 speakers
from ten families of three generations. More recently, Gu (2004) has investigated speakers born after
1969, and found further changes among the younger generation, mainly due to the inﬂuence of Standard
2In contrast to Zee (1999) and Lee & Zee (2003,2009), we do not use the Chao tone letters, one of the
notations recommended by the IPA, mainly because their iconic character becomes largely meaningless
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 323
Researchers vary greatly in the conventions of numerical values used to describe the
pitch contours of the ﬁve tones. For example, Xu & Tang (1988), a classic description of
Shanghai Chinese, adopts the ﬁve-scale pitch system developed by Chao (1930), which
divides a speaker’s pitch range into ﬁve levels with 5 indicating the highest end and 1 the
lowest. T1–T5 are transcribed as 53, 34, 23, 55, and 12, respectively.3Strictly speaking, this
system does not accurately reﬂect the f0 contours plotted in Figure 1 (even with non-linear
transformation of the f0 values). This discrepancy is an indication of the considerable variation
in pronunciation that exists both within the same generation of Shanghainese speakers as
well as across generations, as is also evident in the various transcriptions offered by other
researchers (e.g. Zee & Maddieson 1980 [T1: 51, T2: 34, T3: 14, T4: 5, T5: 14];4Shen 1981b,
1985 [T1: 52, T2: 334/34, T3: 113/13, T4: 4/5, T5: 23];Zhu1999 [T1: 41i, T2: 23i, T3: 14a,
T4: 33i, T5: 24a]with iindicating high pitch register and aindicating low pitch register).5
At a more abstract level, these transcriptions converge on the basic f0 patterns of the
lexical tones. T1 is a Falling tone, while T2 starts at a high register with a rise towards the
end and can be termed high Rising. T4 shows a high and slightly falling f0. It has a short
duration and sounds like a high-level pitch. Hereafter, we will refer to it as a short High tone.
These three tones all start within the relatively higher f0 range, traditionally known as the
Yin () register tones. T3 is a low Rising tone and T5 is a low Rising tone with the same
relatively short duration as T4. T3 and T5 start within a low f0 range, traditionally known as
the Yang () register tones. Note that both tones end with a quite high pitch level. In other
words, tonal register in Shanghainese is evident in the beginning part of the tonal contours,
indicating that it is in part governed by the laryngeal speciﬁcation of the onset consonant.
T4 and T5 only occur in syllables closed by a glottal stop and are known as Rusheng (
), as opposed to the other three tones, which are known as Shusheng (). Because of
this set of complex tone–segment/rime co-occurrence patterns, tonal contrasts in Shanghai
Chinese have been argued to be syllable-level contrasts (e.g. Zee & Maddieson 1980,Zhu
1999). In multisyllabic constituents, lexical tones contrast only in the initial syllable of a tone
unit and thus neutralize in non-initial positions. (See the sections on syllable structure and
tone contrasts below for more details.)
Palatal Vel a r Glottal
Plosive phpb thtd kʰkɡ ʔ
Affricate tshts tɕʰ tɕdʑ
Fricative fvszɕʑ h
Approximant w j
when words are combined into phrases, as in the transcription of the recorded passage. For isolated
citation pronunciations of monosyllables, three tone letters would be usable (˥˩ for Tone1, ˦for Tone4,
˨˩˧ for Tone3 and Tone5, and ˧˥ for Tone2, to be placed after the syllable), although the iconicity is
compromised by variations in pitch levels and additional and more realistic symbols could be devised
(see also Maddieson 1999).
3Xu & Tang (1988: 8) notated the actual realization of the ﬁve lexical tones as follows: T1[53/52],
4Zee & Maddieson (1980) adopted letters to indicate pitch range as follows: [T1: HL, T2: MM↑,T3:
↑ML, T4: H, T5: LM↑]. In this illustration, we converted the letters to numbers for ease of comparison.
5Zhu (1999) argued that four pitch levels, instead of ﬁve as proposed in Chao (1930), are necessary and
sufﬁcient to transcribe the Shanghai tones, if pitch register is adopted into the transcription system.
324 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
phphɔ1‘to throw’ ththɔ1‘wave’ khkhɔ1‘to knock’
ppɔ1‘bag’ ttɔ1‘knife’ kkɔ1‘tall’
bbɔ3‘to hold’ ddɔ3‘rice’ ggɔ3‘to cause’
tshtshɔ1‘to copy’ tɕhtɕhɔ1‘spade’
ts tsɔ1‘terrible’ tɕtɕɔ1‘tender’
mmɔ3‘fur’ nnɔ3‘boisterous’ ŋŋɔ3‘proud’
ffu1‘man’ ssɔ1‘to cook’ ɕɕɔ
1‘to vanish’ hhɔ1‘a plant’
vvu3‘father’ zzɔ3‘to build’ ʑʑa3‘thanks’ ʔkuʔ4‘country’
3‘bad’ llɔ3‘sturdy’ jjɔ3‘to shake’
We have identiﬁed 28 consonants. Corresponding key words/bound morphemes are provided
below the consonant chart. A prominent feature of Shanghai Chinese is the three-way laryngeal
contrast in obstruents, known as quanqing ‘all clear’, ciqing ‘secondary clear’, and
quanzhuo ‘all muddy’. In modern phonetic terms, they are often labeled as voiceless
unaspirated, voiceless aspirated, and voiced, respectively (Chao 1967), and we adopt these
labels in this description. These labels should not mask the important observation that these
obstruents vary in their phonatory state from modal or stiff for the ‘clear’ types to slack for the
‘muddy’ types (see Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996: 63) and may also be classiﬁed as tense,
aspirated, and lax, respectively.
In the initial position of a prosodic tone unit, there is little VOT difference between the
voiceless unaspirated and voiced categories, both of which differ in VOT from voiceless
aspirated obstruents. In the non-initial position of a tone unit, voiced obstruents are fully
voiced, giving rise to a three-way laryngeal distinction in VOT. While VOT thus serves as a
cue in these positions, there are other acoustic and articulatory correlates for the three-way
contrast in both tone unit initial and medial positions (e.g. Shen et al. 1987 on closure duration;
Ren 1992 on transillumination/photoglottography data in the stops’ laryngeal adjustments;
Cao & Maddieson 1992 on phonation cues such as H1ࢤH2 around the onset of the following
Among the alveolar consonants of Shanghai Chinese, /thtd/ tend to be denti-alveolar
hts/ apical alveolar, with /sz/ having a contact area slightly further front than
/tshts/ (there is no ∗/dz/). /nl/ are typically laminal alveolar but their place of articulation
varies due to coarticulation. Consonants are palatalized before high front segments (i.e. /i
yj/), which is particularly noticeable in alveolars, as in /ti1/[tji1]‘low’, /njɔ3/[njjɔ]‘to
circle’. It is important to note that there is no contrast between alveolar /thtdnl/andtheir
palatalized versions, and we therefore do not posit any palatal or palatalized nasal in the
system, despite its inclusion in other descriptions of the language (e.g. Xu & Tang 1988).
The contact areas for the alveolo-palatals (/tɕʰ tɕdʑɕʑ/) include the alveolar ridge and the
forward part of the palatal region, again with the contact being laminal. These consonants
generally show a raised tip/blade and front of the tongue and are thus laminal palatalized
alveolo-palatal (Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996: 180). Further, /ɕʑ/ have a slightly more front
contact area than /tɕʰ tɕdʑ/, an observation that is supported by electropalatographic data
in Ping (2005). Phonotactically, alveolo-palatal sounds share the distribution of palatal /j/.
However, following widely observed practice in Illustrations of the IPA, we have placed the
alveolo-palatals and /j/ in different columns in the above chart.
Syllables with an alveolo-palatal fricative or affricate onset evolved from alveolar or
velar consonants due to the palatalization triggered, historically, by the following high front
vowel or glide /j/(seeLiu2004 for further discussion and references). The convention among
Sinologists has been to transcribe syllables with an alveolo-palatal onset with a high vowel
/i/ after the consonants (e.g. Xu & Tang 1988), as in /tɕiɔ1/ ‘tender’ and /ɕiɔ1/ ‘vanish’.6The
6Such a treatment sometimes allows more transparent descriptions of cross-dialect comparisions or within-
dialect language changes. For example, /tɕiɔ1/ ‘tender’ in the neighbouring dialect Suzhou has the alveolar
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 325
Figure 2 Waveforms and spectrograms of /tɔ1/ ‘knife’ (left), /tjɔ1/ ‘marten’ (middle) and /tɕɔ1/ ‘tender’ (right), respectively.
The white circles highlight the transitions from the onset obstruent to the vocalic nuclei.
spectrograms in Figure 2, however, do not support this practice. They show a considerable
period of time over which the second formant converges toward the value of the back rounded
vowel in the case of /tjɔ1/, while the transition after /tɕ/ is more rapid, temporally comparable
to the transition in /tɔ1/. Moreover, the inclusion of /j/ after alveolo-palatals would amount
to the presence of a phoneme which is fully predictable from the context. We therefore treat
any transitional effects after an alveolo-palatal onset as phonetic, without the need to posit an
underlying phoneme /i/or/j/.
The labial, alveolar, and alveolo-palatal fricatives7have a two-way laryngeal contrast,
commonly labeled as voiceless vs. voiced. Similar to the stops, their phonatory states vary
from stiff in the voiceless ones to more slack in the voiced ones. In the initial position
of a tone unit, the voiced fricatives are fully devoiced, paralleling the lack of VOT cues for
initial voiced obstruents. Other cues are nevertheless present; voiceless fricatives show greater
amplitude of the noise component and are often longer than their voiced counterparts. Their
difference is also evident in their different spectral centres of gravity (7140 Hz in /z/of/zz̩3/
‘tree’ vs. 7638 Hz in /s/of/sz̩2/ ‘try’; 1834 Hz in /v/of/vu3/ ‘father’ vs. 5143 Hz in /f/
of /fu1/ ‘husband’). Non-initially in the tone unit, the voiceless fricatives remain voiceless,
but their voiced counterparts are fully voiced and are produced with glottal pulse turbulence.
This contrast is illustrated in Figure 3 (/fu1/ ‘man/husband’ vs. /zɐŋ3+fu1/ ‘husband’) and
Figure 4 (/vu3/ ‘father’ vs. /jɐŋ3+vu3/ ‘adopted father’). Lastly, /h/ is pronounced [x]before
/w/ and non-low back vowels, as in /hwɛ1/[xwei1]‘dust’ and [h]before other vowels.
Syllabic /z̩/ occurs in syllables with an alveolar sibilant onset and no coda, e.g. /sz̩2/‘try’
and /zz̩3/ ‘tree’. The later portion of syllabic /z̩/ tends to lose its friction, in which case it ends
with the spectral quality of a central close-mid vowel, commonly transcribed as /ɿ/(e.g.Xu
&Tang1988 after Karlgren 1940, but see Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996: 314) on fricative
onset /ts/, requiring the presence of /i/ in the rhyme. The onset /tɕ/ in Shanghai Chinese has also been
noted to evolve from /ts/ when preceding the vowel /i/ (Xu & Tao 1997).
7Some speakers of Shanghai Chinese, especially the old-generation speakers, have the bilabial fricatives
/ɸ/and/B/ instead of the labial-dental fricatives /f/and/v/.
326 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
Figure 3 Waveforms and spectrograms of initial /f/in/fu1/ ‘man/husband’ (left) vs. medial /f/in
/zɐŋ3+fu1/ ‘husband’ (right).
Figure 4 Waveforms and spectrograms of initial /v/in/vu3/ ‘father’ (left) vs. medial /v/in/jɐŋ3+vu3/ ‘adopted father’
vowels). The suspension of friction is visible in Figure 5 for the larger part of /z̩/in/sz̩2/and
for the ﬁnal part in /zz̩3/.8
8Across Chinese dialects, what have been evolved into a syllabic fricative in Shanghai Chinese take on
different vowel spectral qualities and are realized with varying degrees of friction, and therefore cannot
be simply treated uniformly as syllabic fricatives.
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 327
Figure 5 Waveforms and spectrograms of /sz̩2/ ‘try’ (left) and /zz̩3/ ‘tree’ (right).
Labial and velar nasals can form syllable nuclei, e.g. /ŋ̍3/ ‘ﬁsh’, /m̩3məʔ/ ‘not in possession’,
and /m̩1ma/ ‘mother’. /ŋ/ is the only nasal that may occur in all three positions in the
syllable – onset, nucleus, and coda. However, the speciﬁc place of articulation for the nasal
coda varies, partly due to the articulatory latitude that the nasal coda enjoys, given that the
language neutralizes place contrasts in coda position. For example, following /ə/and/ʏ/, the
nasal coda is closer to an alveolar [n]or alveolo-palatal [nʲ](as in /kəŋ3/[kən3]‘to follow’
and /tɕʏŋ1/[tɕʏnʲ1]‘army’). An open vowel before coda /ŋ/ is strongly nasalized (as in
/zɑŋ3/[zɑ̃ŋ3]‘bed’). Very often, the vocal tract conﬁguration for the low vowel is maintained
till the end of the syllable and there is no complete velic closure (as in /kɐŋ1/[kɐ̃1]‘hard
(rice)’). (See the section on vowels below for more discussion on nasalized vowels.) When
a sonorant serves as the onset of a syllable, its phonatory state varies from stiff with a high-
register tone to more slack with a low-register tone. It is common to annotate this allophonic
change of phonatory state with [Ɂ]and [ɦ], respectively, as in [Ɂm]and [mɦ](Xu & Tang
There are 15 vowels in the basic inventory.9Nine monophthongs occur in open syllables,
as plotted in Figure 6. Vowels in closed syllables are plotted in Figure 7, where six occur in
syllables closed by a nasal coda (left diagram) and ﬁve in syllables closed by a glottal coda
(right diagram). We adopted the same set of symbols for vowels followed by a glottal stop and
those followed by nasal coda, although their articulations often differ. However, the symbols
for the vowels in Figure 6 are all different from those in Figure 7, so as to emphasize the fact
9For different proposals on the vowel system of Shanghainese, see Xu & Tang 1988, Svantesson 1989,
Xu & Tao 1997 and Zhu 1999, among others.
328 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
Figure 6 Auditory plots of monophthongs in open syllables, based on the accompanying sound ﬁles.
Figure 7 Auditory plots of monophthongs in closed syllables (left panel: for vowels in syllables closed by a nasal; right panel: for
vowels in syllables closed by a glottal stop), based on the accompanying sound ﬁles.
that for no pair of open-syllable vowel and closed-syllable vowel do we assume phonological
equivalence. In general, vowels in closed syllables are more central and lower than vowels
in open syllables. The auditory plots here are based on accompanying sound ﬁles produced
by our informant. For acoustic analyses of vowels produced by several speakers, readers are
referred to Chen (2008a).
Monophthongs in open syllables
1‘low’ u tu1‘capital’
3‘donkey’ o ko1‘melon’
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 329
Monophthongs in closed syllables
tIʔ4‘drop’ kʊʔ 4‘country’
ʏtɕʏŋ1‘army’ əkəŋ1‘to follow’
ɐkɐŋ1‘hard (rice)’ ɑkɑŋ1‘jar’
The back unrounded vowel /ɤ/ is more diphthongal (i.e. [ɤɯ]) in our sound ﬁles than in
the speech of the older speakers in Chen (2008a), whose monophthongal pronunciation is
illustrated in /dɤ3/ ‘head’ by one of them. No durational difference was found between the
diphthongized and non-diphthongized realizations. The back rounded /u/and/o/ are both
close to close-mid back monophthongs with compressed lip rounding. The lips for /o/ are
more protruding, while in the case of /u/, the lips are less rounded but more compressed.
The lips typically converge towards the end of the vowel, sometimes making a light contact.
The difference in lip position enhances the difference between the two vowels /u/and/o/
(see Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996: 295). The lip convergence is particularly clear when /u/
occurs in combination with an onset /tk/ (e.g. /tu1/ ‘capital city’ and /ku1/ ‘song’, compared
to /vu3/ ‘father’).
Typologically, the vowel system in open syllables is remarkable for the clustering in the
close-mid to close area. The mid front unrounded vowel resulted from a merger of /e/and
/ɛ/ by the late 1980s (Xu & Tang 1988).10 Given the height of the vowel produced by our
informant, we may symbolize it as /e/, but we have chosen /ɛ/ because native speakers appear
to enjoy considerable latitude in the tongue height of this vowel, and some may have an opener
realization, as illustrated in /ɦɛ3/ ‘salty’ by an older speaker reported in Chen (2008a). Our
informant also produces the vowel as [ei]in some lexical items which contain /ei/ in Standard
Chinese. This is evidently due to the inﬂuence of Standard Chinese, and /ei/ thus has the status
of a ‘marginal’ vowel of our informant’s language. A contrastive pair is /tei1/ ‘to accumulate’
vs. /tɛ1/ ‘dumbfounded’. /a/ is often transcribed as /A/ in the Sinological literature, a non-IPA
symbol for a central, open unrounded vowel (e.g. Xu & Tang 1988).
For some older speakers and our informant, there is a contrast between /tʰjɛ1/[tʰi̝]‘sky’
vs. /tʰi1/ ‘ladder’, and /pjɛ2/[pi̝]‘to change’ vs. /pi2/ ‘arm’, and /ʑɛ3/[ʑi̝]‘front’ vs. /ʑi3/
‘surname Xu’). While we assume that the underlying forms are /jɛ/or/ɛ/and/i/, respectively,
this difference has been documented in different ways (Qian 2003). The two forms are known
to have merged in the younger generation by the 1980s (Xu & Tang 1988). In terms of
articulation, the tongue body for /ɛ/ after a palatal is raised, which results in a more peripheral
(i.e. mainly higher F2) realization, as shown in the contrast between /ɕɛ1/[ɕi̝]‘fresh’ (left)
vs. /ɕi1/ ‘west’ (right) in Figure 8.
As for vowels in closed syllables, the contrast between /ɐ/and/ɑ/ only exists before
/ŋ/ (i.e. not before /ʔ/). /ɐ/ is more centralized, while /ɑ/ is further back. These two vowels
are often described as fully nasalized (e.g. as [ã]and [ɑ̃]in Xu & Tang 1988). However,
spectrogram inspection of the rhyme realizations by our informant shows that the vowels are
indeed consistently nasalized, but often followed by a brief velar closure at the end. A case
in point here is /zɑŋ3/[zɑ̃ŋ3]‘bed’ in Figure 9. This observation is supported by Ping (2005:
Vowels preceding a glottal stop in the coda show a general displacement towards an
open back position, possibly due to a retracted tongue root for the glottal constriction. Lip
10Among the younger generation, there is a merger reversal and /e/–/ɛ/ words have been reported to become
distinct again and some produce the /ɛ/ words with /ei/, presumably due to Mandarin inﬂuence (Gu 2004).
330 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
Figure 8 Waveforms and spectrograms of /ɕɛ1/[ɕi̝]‘fresh’ (left) vs. /ɕi1/ ‘west’ (right).
Figure 9 Waveforms and spectrograms of /zɑŋ3/[zɑ̃ŋ3]‘bed’.
unrounding occurs just before the glottal closure and the velar nasal, such that /tɕʏʔ4/ ‘bound
morpheme for resolution’ is realized as [tɕʏᶦʔ4],and/kʊʔ4/ ‘country’ as [kʊəʔ]where the [I/ə]
element is very brief. Finally, /əʔ/and/ɐʔ/ are interchangeable for some speakers, particularly
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 331
Tab l e 1 Co-occurrence restrictions on consonants with the high vowels /iu/ and glides /jw/.
Vowel/Glide Labial/Labio-dental Alveolar Alveolo-palatal Velar h
hi,pi,bi,mi,fi,vi thi,ti,di,li,ni Yes No N o
uYes Yes No Yes Ye s
hj,pj,bj,mj thj,tj,dj,lj,lj No No No
wNo No No Yes Yes
Shanghainese syllable structure is (C)(G)V(C), where G is either /j/, as in /tja1/ ‘daddy’, or
/w/, as in /kwa1/ ‘well-behaved’. As noted in the section on vowels, the coda C is either /ŋ/or
/ʔ/, as in /kʊŋ1/ ‘public’ and /kʊʔ4/ ‘country’. The glides /jw/ may occur syllable-initially, as
in /jɔ3/ ‘to shake’ and /wa3/ ‘rotten’, or following C, but /jw/ do not appear in combination
(∗/wj/ ∗/jw/). Within an open syllable, j before /iyou/isbanned,while/w/ is only found
before /ɑɛø/. Within a closed syllable, /j/ is absent before /Iʏə/and/w/ before /Iʏʊ/.
Before a rounded vowel, /j/ is rounded to [ɥ],asin/jʊɁ5/[ɥʊɁ]‘bath’, /pʰjɔ1/[p°ɥɥɔ]‘to
ﬂoat’, and /jø3/[ɥø]‘round’ (compare /ø3/[ɦø]‘cold’ and /y3/[ʝʷy]‘rain’). While a rounded
glide /ɥ/ is commonly posited as a separate phoneme, we treat it here as an allopone of /j/,
since it never occurs before a non-round vowel.
In the literature, /jw/ have been analyzed as initial elements in the syllable nucleus,
i.e. the ‘medial’ in traditional Chinese phonology, and as onset consonants. In combination
with a preceding C, they have additionally been analysed as secondary articulations (see Yip
2003, Duanmu, forthcoming, for further details). Regardless of the analysis of prevocalic
glides as either onset or nucleus, there are a number of complementary distributions between
(non-glide) onset consonants and glides. Before /j/, either a labial or alveolar consonant can
appear (e.g. /pʰjɔ1/ ‘to ﬂoat’, /pjɔ1/ ‘to mark’, /bjɔ3/ ‘prostitute’, /mjɔ1/ ‘to peek’ and /tʰjɔ1/
‘to shoulder’, /tjɔ1/ ‘marten’, /djɔ3/ ‘stripe’, /njɔ3/ ‘to circle’, /ljɔ1/ ‘to uncover’). In addition
to the alveolo-palatal and velar obstruents rejecting a following /j/, the sequences ∗/fjvjwj
hj/11 are excluded. Before /w/, only velar plosives can appear (e.g. /kʰwɛ1/[kʰwei1]‘debit’,
/kwɛ1/ ‘to close’ and /gwɛ3/ ‘to circle (N.)’) or /h/ (e.g. /hwɛ1/[xwei1]‘dust’).
Further phonotactic restrictions can be observed in CV sequences. First, while the alveolar
sibilants /s z ts tsʰ/ do not appear before /iyIʏj/, syllabic /z̩/ occurs precisely after this
group of consonants. Examples include /tsz̩2/ ‘paper’, /tshz̩2/ ‘here’, /sz̩2/ ‘try’, and /zz̩3/
‘tree’. Secondly, /iyIʏj/ do not appear after velars (e.g. ∗/ki/, ∗/ŋy/, ∗/gj/, etc.). Thirdly, the
high front rounded /yʏ/ only occurs after /ln/and/tɕʰ tɕdʑɕʑ/. Table 1summarizes the
distribution of post-C /jiwu/.
Onsetless syllables at the start of a tone unit begin with a glottal stop if they have T1, T2
or T4. That is, initial [ʔ]is a predictable beginning of vowel-initial syllables with (non-low)
Yin register tones. Generally, syllables with these non-low tones have stiff voice. By contrast,
slack voice is a predictable beginning of vowel-initial syllables with low tone, T3 or T5, the
Yang register tones in traditional Chinese. While it is common to assume phonemic glottal
stops and voiced glottal fricatives as syllable onsets, we propose that these syllables should
be analyzed as onsetless. Initial slack voice is an enhancement of the realization of T3 and
T5, just as initial stiffness can be seen as an enhancement of T1, T2 and T4.
The phonation difference between stiffness vs. slackness of the vowel in these syllables is
shown in Figure 10, which plots the Fast Fourier transform (FFT) spectrum of the vowel
11We also note one lexical exception for the cluster /vj/, /vjɔ3/ ‘don’t want’, which we believe is due to the
coalescence of two syllales /vəʔ/ ‘not’ and /jɔ2/‘want’.
332 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
Figure 10 FFT spectrum of the vowel /a/in/a1/[ʔa1]‘bound morpheme a’ (top panel) and /a3/[ɦa3]‘short’ (bottom
panel), taken over an interval of approximately 30 ms from the ﬁrst regular vocal pulse of the vowel.
/a/in/a1/[ʔa1]‘bound morpheme a’ (top panel) vs. /a3/[ɦa3]‘shoe’ (bottom panel),
taken over an interval of approximately 30 ms from the beginning of the vowel. It is clear
from the measurements on both H1ࢤH2 (i.e. amplitude difference between the ﬁrst and
second harmonics) and H1ࢤA1 (i.e. amplitude difference between the ﬁrst harmonic and ﬁrst
formant) that there is a phonation difference between the two vowels with /a3/[ɦa3]showing
more breathiness (i.e. slack voice) than /a1/[ʔa1]. (See Blankenship 2002 formoredetailson
the acoustic correlates of phonation types.)
The tone-dependent slack voice is heard as the phonetic segment [ɦ]only with mid and
open vowels, as in /ø3/[ɦø]‘cold’, /ɛ3/[ɦɛ]‘to harm’, /ɔ3/[ɦɔ]‘unrestrained’, /a3/[ɦa]‘shoe’.
Before less open vowels, the glottal friction is absent, causing /Iʔ5/ ‘leaf’, /ʏʔ5/ ‘moon’ and
/ʊʔ5/ ‘to live’ to sound like [jIʔ],[ɥʏIʔ]and [wʊəʔ], respectively. In the case of the high vowels
/iyu/, there tends to be weakly voiced cavity friction produced along the place of articulation
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 333
Tab l e 2 Realization of the onsetless vowels /iu/andtheglides/jw/ in tone-unit initial vs. medial position.
Vowel/Glide Initial Medial
/i3/[ʝi3fu]‘uncle’ [ɕɔ2ifu]‘younger uncle’
/i1/[ʔi1sɐŋ]‘doctor’ [ɕɔ2isɐŋ]‘young doctor’
/u3/[Bu3]‘pot’ [ɕɔ2u]‘small pot’
/u1/[ʔu1]‘surname’ [ɕɔ2u]‘nickname for youngster with the surname’
/jɐŋ3/[jɐŋ3ɕi̝sɐŋ]‘Mr. Yang’ [ɕɔ2jɐŋ]‘nickname for youngster with the surname’
/wɑŋ1/[wɑŋ1ɕi̝sɐŋ]‘Mr. Wang’ [ɕɔ2wɑŋ]‘nickname for younger with the surname’
Tab l e 3 Realization of the predictable segments [ʔɦ]and the phonemic onset /h/ in isolation vs. tone unit
Morpheme In isolation Preceded by /tɕʰIŋ1/ within the same tone unit
/o1/[ʔo1]‘frog (bound morpheme)’ [tɕʰIŋ1o]‘frog’
/o3/[ɦo3]‘splendid (bound morpheme)’ [tɕʰIŋ1o]‘the name of a university’
/ho1/[ho1]‘ﬂower’ [tɕʰIŋ1ho]‘blue ﬂower in porcelain glazing’
of the vowel. Thus, /i3/ ‘aunt’ is [ʝi],/y3/ ‘rain’ is [ʝʷy]and /u3/ ‘fox’ is [Bu]. As explained in
the section on tone contrasts below, the tone of non-initial syllables in the tone unit is deleted,
with the tone of the ﬁrst syllable determining the f0 contour for the tone unit. The relevance
of this fact for the segmental analysis is that tone-dependent segmental features in non-initial
syllables of the tone unit disappear. Thus, the homorganic glides/fricatives disappear in medial
position in the tone unit, while underlying /jw/ remain, as shown in Table 2. Likewise, the
tone-dependent status of the phonetic segments [ʔ]and, for non-high vowels, [ɦ]is shown by
their disappearance in non-initial position in the tone unit. This can be seen in Table 3, where
[ʔ]and [ɦ]disappear after a domain-initial morpheme /tɕʰIŋ1/. By contrast, the phoneme /h/
is retained in non-initial position.
Tone contrasts in Shanghai Chinese are signalled by a complex set of features. In addition
to the f0 differences, there is a constellation of phonetic and phonological features of the
tone-bearing syllable, which include voice quality (slack voice for T3/T5 and stiff voice for
T1/T2/T4), pre-vocalic state of the glottis (a glottal closure before onsetless syllables with
T1/T2/T4 and slack vocal fold vibration/weak voiced friction for those with T3/T5), as well
as the post-vocalic state of the glottis and the duration of the vowel (short vowel and presence
of a glottal closure after T4/T5 vs. long vowel and absence of a glottal closure for T1/T2/T4).
A similar point was made in Sherard (1972).
Tabl e 4summarizes the distributional restrictions. In an open syllable or a syllable with
nasal rhyme, aspirated and unaspirated obstruent onsets allow for a two-way contrast between
T1 and T2 (column 2). When the onset is a voiced obstruent, only T3 is possible (column
3). As for nasal and approximant onsets (column 4), T1 and T3 occur fequently on syllables
with nasal onsets, while T2 is rare. In the speech of our informant, a sub-minimal triplet is:
/mɛ1/‘very’,/mei2/ ‘beautiful’, /mɛ3/ ‘slow’. The pitch for T3 after nasal onsets seems to
be not quite as low as that after voiced obstruents, perhaps reﬂecting the absence of the f0
perturbation effect that occurs after voiced obstruents on the one hand and the low functional
load of the contrast with T2 on the other. In checked syllables, voiceless obstruents condition
T4 (column 5), leaving voiced obstruents to co-occur with T5 (column 6). After nasal and
approximant onsets (column 7), T5 abounds and T4 is rare.
334 Journal of the International Phonetic Association: Illustrations of the IPA
Tab l e 4 Co-occurence restrictions on tonal categories with consonants and syllable structure.
Ton e TV( ŋ)DV(ŋ)SV(ŋ)TVʔDVʔSVʔ
T1 Yes No Yes No No No
T2 Yes No Yes No No No
T3 No Yes Yes No No No
T4 No No No Yes No Yes
T5 No No No No Yes Yes
T=voiceless obstruent, S =sonorant consonant, D =voiced obstruent, V =vowel
Tab l e 5 Realizations of onsetless syllables in ﬁve tone contexts, illustrated with the nuclei /i/
or /Iʔ/and/a/or/ɐʔ/. The vowels in open syllables have been provided with
a length mark to indicate the short nature of the vowels in checked rhymes.
Ton e i/Iʔa/ɐʔ
T1 /i/[ʔiː]‘doctor’ /a/[ʔaː]‘preﬁx for aunt’
T2 /i/[ʔiː]‘chair’ /a/[ʔaː]‘short’
T3 /i/[ʝiː]‘to move’ /a/[ɦaː]‘shoe’
T4 /Iʔ/[ʔIʔ]‘one’ /ɐʔ/[ʔɐʔ]‘pressure’
T5 /Iʔ/[ʝIʔ]‘leaf’ /ɐʔ/[ɦɐʔ]‘narrow’
Onsetless syllables and syllables beginning with /jw/ allow the full set of tonal contrasts:
T1 vs. T2 (or T4) vs.T3 (or T5). Table 5summarizes the phonetic effects of the tone for
syllables beginning with a high vowel and a low vowel. All of these examples in fact occur as
morphemes, as indicated by the glosses.
Understandably, given these distributional restrictions, there have been conﬂicting
summary statements of the number of tones in Shanghainese. For example, Jin (1986)and
Selkirk & Shen (1990) assume a three-way contrast, Duanmu (1993,1999) a two-way contrast,
and Zee & Maddieson (1980) work with ﬁve phonetic contours of the lexical tones.
Within a tone unit, the tonal contours of non-initial syllables never surface, and the tone
of the ﬁrst syllable determines the f0 contour for the whole domain. After the second syllable,
f0 falls gradually, and converges to low pitch as the number of non-initial syllables increases.
(Readers are referred to Chen 2008b for further details.) This pattern is known as guangyong
shi ‘commonly applied pattern’, as opposed to zhaiyong shi ‘less commonly
applied pattern’ (Xu & Tang 1988), with the latter referring to tonal reduction processes due
to the lack of phrasal-level prominence – a topic for future research.
Many factors can affect f0 contour realization, including prosodic grouping and the
information status of the constituents (see e.g. Chen 2012 for review on tonal variation).
There is a large literature on tonal variation over the non-initial syllables of tone units as
well as on how tone units, together with larger prosodic domains, are realized (see Zee &
Maddieson 1980, Selkirk & Shen 1990, Duanmu 1999,Chen2008b). It is beyond the scope
of this paper to evaluate these proposals or to provide a new analysis.
Transcription of recorded passage
This passage is transcribed phonemically, using the symbols presented in the vowel and
consonant charts. Tones are marked for each tone unit on the basis of the tone of the initial
syllable. The boundaries between syllables are indicated by spaces, the boundaries of tone
units are marked by parentheses, while | marks the end of major phrases and || that of utterances.
Yiya Chen & Carlos Gussenhoven: Shanghai Chinese 335
(jɤ3thɑŋtsz̩)|(pʊʔ4fʊŋ)|(təʔ4)(tha2jɐŋ)|(tsəŋ2hɔ)| (ləʔ5ləʔ)(tsɐŋ1) |(sa2nIŋ)|(pəŋ2zz̩)
(du3)||(tsɐŋ1lɛ)|(tsɐŋ1tɕʰi)|(tsɐŋ1vəʔ tɕʰIŋ1sɑŋ)|(ɡəʔ zəŋ3kwɑŋ)||(lu3lɑŋ) |(tsɤ2ku
lɛ)|(Iʔ4ɡə)(nIŋ3)||(səŋ1lɑŋ)|(tsɐʔ4lə)(Iʔ4dʑɛ)|(ɤ3da i)||(i3la)(ljɐŋ3ka dɤ)|(dʑɤ3)
|| (dʑɤ3)(s2ø) | (sa2nIŋ)|(pəŋ2zz̩)(du3)||(pʊʔ4fʊŋ)(dʑɤ3)|(jʊŋ3tsʊʔ)(lIʔ5tɕʰi)|(dʑʊŋ3
tsʰz̩)|(pɐʔ4tsʰz̩)||(pəʔ4ku)||(i3)|(ʏʔ 5)(tsʰz̩1təʔ)(tɕIʔ4kwəŋ)||(ɡəʔ5ɡəʔ)(tsɤ2lu ɡəʔ)
We would like to thank ﬁrst and foremost our informant Zhiqi Deng for making this study possible.
In addition, we are grateful to Yueling Ping, Huan Tao, Rujie You, and Dunming You for sharing their
thoughts with us on various linguistic aspects of the language, and to Zhongmin Chen and Menghui
Shi for sharing references. We are also greatly indebted to the anonymous reviewers, whose comments
have led to a large number of improvements in the exposition as well as to various additions to the
text. The editorial assistance from Ewa Jaworska, Roger Lo, and Myrthe Wildeboer at various stages
of the writeup is gratefully appreciated. The work was in part supported by a VENI grant and a VIDI
grant awarded to the ﬁrst author, and the Network grant ‘Forms and Functions of Prosody’, awarded
to both authors, all by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientiﬁc Research (NWO). YC was also
supported by the European Research Council (ERC-Starting Grant 206198).
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