The Use of Perception Tests in Studying the Tonal System of Prinmi Dialects: A Speaker-centered Approach to Descriptive Linguistics

Date
2007-12-17
Authors
Ding, Picus Sizhi
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University of Hawai'i Press
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1
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2
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Abstract
Contrary to previous description based on the Mandarin model of syllable-tone system, Xinyingpan, a dialect of Prinmi (a Tibeto-Burman language of China), has been discovered to possess a melody-tone system (or “pitch-accent” system) akin to that of Japanese. Targeting the crux of the unusual characteristics of this melody-tone system, where neutralization of two tonal categories in citation form is possible, this study uses perception tests to explore (dis)similarities among the tonal system of Xinyingpan Prinmi and those of other dialects. The perception tests consist of several minimal pairs of words contrasting solely by tone in a sentence frame. Results from more than twenty native speakers of fifteen Prinmi dialects from Ninglang, Lanping, and Yulong counties in Yunnan show that at least three minimal pairs of words in other dialects use the same tonal patterns for contrast in connected speech as in Xinyingpan. Evidence for the contrastive status of the pairs of words was attained directly from speakers who helped to prepare materials for the perception tests. This paper will also discuss some effects of language shift, such as linguistic attrition, observed in the empirical study.
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Mandarin model of syllable-tone system, Prinmi, Tonal system, melody-tone system, perception tests, language shift
Citation
Ding, Picus Sizhi. 2007. The use of perception tests in studying the tonal system of Prinmi dialects: A speaker-centered approach to descriptive linguistics. Language Documentation & Conservation 1(2): 154–181.
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