A Subsegmental Correspondence Approach to Contour Tone (Dis)Harmony Patterns


  • Stephanie Shih Stanford University/University of California, Berkeley
  • Sharon Inkelas University of California, Berkeley




contours, tone, harmony, dissimilation, Agreement by Correspondence, Q-theory


Contour tones, like contour segments, exhibit dualist syntagmatic behavior: as whole units, they can participate in harmony (spreading) and disharmony (OCP-type restriction) processes or their internal, subsegmental components may act independently. Formally, such schizoid behavior from both contour tones and segments in (dis)harmony patterns has challenged previous phonological theory. As a solution, this paper presents a novel, quantized phonological representation for subsegmental units couched in existing surface correspondence theory (Agreement by Correspondence (ABC); Hansson 2001; Rose & Walker 2004; et seq.). The resulting approach, termed ABC+Q, treats tonally contoured segments as strings of tonally simplex subsegments and is thus capable of modeling both whole contour (segment-level) and partial contour (subsegment-level) effects as consequences of (dis)agreement triggered by phonological similarity and proximity. Such an approach makes it possible for the first time to offer a united treatment for the behavior of both contour tones and contour segments across observed patterns of (dis)harmony.

Author Biographies

  • Stephanie Shih, Stanford University/University of California, Berkeley
    Lecturer, UC Berkeley
  • Sharon Inkelas, University of California, Berkeley
    Professor, Department of Linguistics, UC Berkeley