Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 103–135

Some remarks on Contour Tone Units


DOI: 10.1007/s10831-010-9057-9

Cite this article as:
Chen, TY. J East Asian Linguist (2010) 19: 103. doi:10.1007/s10831-010-9057-9


This paper reviews a previous assumption that contour tones are units (i.e., Contour Tone Unit, CTU) in Asian tone languages and can therefore spread, assimilate, or dissimilate as wholes. One problem for such an assumption is that not all Asian languages pattern uniformly, and some show a rather different, prototypically African tone language pattern. Furthermore, the assumption yields analytical gaps which need to be covered by more arbitrary rules. In this paper non-CTU approaches are proposed to re-analyze contour tone sandhi in various Chinese dialects with broader generalizations and stronger explanations. The paper also argues against the CTU since the contrast between it and the non-CTU has never been reported. Despite the fact that some phonetic differences have been discovered between two identical contour tones, the differences are not necessarily mapped with different contour tone representations (i.e., CTU vs. non-CTU). In sum, since the CTU is not beneficial analytically and theoretically, there is no reason to consider it as part of Universal Grammar.


Tone languages Tone Contour Tone Unit Phonology Optimality Theory Typology 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of LinguisticsNational Chung Cheng UniversityMinhsiung TownshipTaiwan, R.O.C
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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