Variegated VC Rime Restrictions in Sinitic Languages

Chiachih Lo, Feng-fan Hsieh, Yueh-chin Chang


In this study, we consider a non-Markedness-based account for VC rime phonotactics in Sinitic languages, with special reference to Taiwanese Southern Min and Hakka. Rime gaps in Chinese languages have been customarily analyzed as co-occurrence markedness constraints. But analyses along this line not only overgenerate by predicting unattested gaps, but also fail to motivate those phonotactic constraints in a principled fashion. By adopting Hsieh's (2010) duration-based account, we present further phonetic evidence to show that phonotactics of Chinese VC combinations may be attributed to: (i) low perceptibility of coda consonants due to absence of release, and (ii) decreased vowel distinctiveness as a result of vowel reduction. One of the new findings in this study is that the perceptual difficulties are further exacerbated by the relatively shorter duration of Taiwanese checked syllables, if compared with those of Hakka and Cantonese. Also, salient F2 transitions (vowel gliding) may occur to enhance the place of articulation of a stop coda in Taiwanese. Therefore, rime gaps are normally found in contexts whereby (i) VC coarticulation is weak and (ii) vowel distinctiveness cannot be maintained. In sum, the results of our acoustic studies suggest that the duration-based approach offers a more straightforward account for why Taiwanese has more rime gaps than Hakka and Cantonese do.


rime gap; Sinitic languages; Taiwanese Southern Min; Hakka

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Copyright (c) 2019 Chiachih Lo, Feng-fan Hsieh, Yueh-chin Chang

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