On the Edge: The Sociophonetics of Boundary Tones and Final Lengthening in Mandarin Chinese

Patrick Callier
Georgetown University

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The study of intonation has always been bound up with the study of meaning. But the myriad researchers who have taken up intonation have, unsurprisingly, found a number of ways to characterize both its structure and function. I take an "ecumenical" approach to intonational meaning and function in one corpus of conversational data in Mandarin, an approach grounded in the study of variation, (socio-)phonetics, and interaction. I consider speech data from naturalistic conversational interaction, which provides a chance to look at the contextualized meaning of intonation. This necessitates increased attention to phonetic variability, rather than just phonological structure, as well as reminds us that both phonological structure and phonetic variability participate in indexical meaning-making, counter to phonological accounts that replicate the phonology-phonetics divide in making a clear distinction between linguistic and paralinguistic meaning.

eVox. January 2011. Vol. 5.1. Washington, DC: Georgetown University. ©2011 by Cala Zubair.