Moraic Footing in Suzhou Chinese: Evidence from Toneless Moras

Yuhong Zhu


The current study provides additional phonetic data for the light-initial sandhi patterns in Suzhou Chinese, illustrating a context-sensitive pitch alternation that is not present after heavy-initial forms, and has not been attested in other neighboring Northern Wu varieties either. I propose that such pitch alternation is due to interpolation effects on toneless prosodic constituents, here toneless moras. A binary trochee built directly on moras yields an unparsed (i.e. toneless) final mora in light-heavy disyllables, accounting for the pitch patterns on the surface. Such an analysis is not only empirically adequate, but also echoes the cross-linguistic structural observation that a foot head lighter in weight than the dependent is generally dispreferred (Head-Dependent Asymmetry; cf. Dresher and van der Hulst 1998).


Tone Sandhi; Moraic footing; Tonelessness; Interpolation

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