Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 259–302

A directional asymmetry in Chinese tone sandhi systems


DOI: 10.1007/s10831-007-9016-2

Cite this article as:
Zhang, J. J East Asian Linguist (2007) 16: 259. doi:10.1007/s10831-007-9016-2


Chinese tone sandhi systems are often classified as left-dominant or right-dominant depending on the position of the syllable retaining the citation tone. An asymmetry exists between the two types of systems: left-dominant sandhi often involves rightward extension of the initial tone to the entire sandhi domain; right-dominant sandhi, however, often involves default insertion and paradigmatic neutralization of nonfinal tones. I argue that the extension of a tone to a larger domain may serve two markedness purposes: the reduction of tonal contours on a syllable and the reduction of pitch differences across syllable boundaries, both of which have a rightward directionality preference. The former is due to the durational advantage afforded by final lengthening; the latter is due to the universal preference for progressive tonal coarticulation. I show that a theory that formally encodes these preferences via intrinsic constraint rankings can predict the directional asymmetry noted above.


Tone sandhi Tone spreading Contour tones Optimality Theory Factorial typology Faithful Alignment 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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