UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 13 (2001)

Tonal features, tonal inventories and phonetic targets



Most work on Asian languages uses two binary tone features. There are however cases in which the Register System cannot accurately characterize the phonetics of the recorded tones, particularly mid and contour tones. This paper identifies these problems, and sketches solutions. It proposes a new algorithm for converting featural specifications into phonetic levels. Next, tonal inventories are analyzed within  an OT instantiation of  Dispersion Theory. Finally it suggests that contours have only an initial tonal specification, and the phonetic contour is the result of drift away from that initial target. Level tones have two targets, firmly anchoring both ends and keeping the pitch stable.

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