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Here is the intonation that is recorded in an instructional video for the clause 我已经很久都不过中秋节了 (wǒ yǐjīng hěn jiǔ dōu bú guò zhōngqiūjié le). 久 is very prominently pronounced with a descending glissando. It is a distinct 4th tone, phonetically. Can it still be a valid phonological 3rd tone? Or is it an accidental intonation mistake?Praat intonation contour

dou1 actually starts a bit later than my annotation suggests. The big cratering fall is the tail of "jiu3".

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  • It's great that you provided the plot of it, but... can you provide the audio too? Maybe upload to vocaroo or something? Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 11:25
  • Not sure how long this link will stay active, but here is the recording on vocaroo: vocaroo.com/1e1Mvfj9wKEh
    – Papa Smurf
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 14:43
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    I realize you already got a very detailed and good answer, but just listening to the recording, the 久 in question sounds unambiguously like a 3rd tone Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 13:25
  • @StumpyJoePete Now I listen again to it, I eventually perceive it that way. I think the tone sandhi on 很 is a huge cue. It leaves quite a bit of latitude for the intonation of 久 itself, once you are primed to expect a 3rd tone.
    – Papa Smurf
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 7:26

1 Answer 1

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jiu3 pronounced as jiu4

It is very prominently pronounced with a descending glissando. It is a distinct 4th tone, phonetically.

This is not true. Tone 4 is high and descending. It has no turning up, which distinguishes it from Tone 3. The turning in the plot is non-trivial.

As a single syllable, because jiu3 is often not said as a whole sentence, the tone might sound a bit weird. But it you say 好 with the exactly same pitch as jiu3 in the audio, then it feels natural.

linked speech feature or slip of the tongue? Can it still be a valid phonological 3rd tone? Or is it an accidental intonation mistake?

In the sentence, it's definitely a Tone 3 to a native ear. It's a valid phonological Tone 3; actually it's how Tone 3 usually sounds in connected speech, and even in non-connected speech in an informal style and for people not from Beijing or similar high-pitch regions, like the example 好 above.

Tone 3 is high/mid-high->low->mid-high. You can indeed see the little going up at the end of the pitch contour. It being short is not a problem. Neither is it not going up to mid-high. These are not its defining characters. What's important is the turning up, which you can clearly see from the plot.

On the other hand, sometimes the required tone contour is obtained together with the next syllable; this is usually the basis for 连续变调. The next syllable is Tone 1, by standard a high-level. Though in reality many people pronounce it not that high, especially non-Beijingers. (A high Tone 1 is a feature of Beijing Mandarin.) Together with 都, 久 completes a full high/mid-high->low->mid-high contour. (The automatically generate pitch line for 都 is not correct) This is why it sounds clearer in the sentence than in the single syllable that it's Tone 3.


RESPONSE TO COMMENTS @PapaSmurf

A break pitch line is most often from a Tone 3. Praat often fails to draw it correctly. Moreover, some people actually insert a glottal stop in the middle, making it more disconnected.

What makes it more complicated is that Praat sometimes gives a small connected rise at the end of a Tone 4. That is not part of the syllable, but more of a before-pause regression to mid-pitch with a more centralized version (schwa-shading) of the last vowel. More specifically, because Tone 4 ends low, the added part will go up. Tone 2 ends high, then the added part will down. This is a relaxed way of speaking; before pause and end of the sound the mouth returns to a neutral position and pitch to mid. It's especially obvious if you hear South-westerners speak Standard Mandarin; for other regions this phenomenon generally exists at a lesser degree. It disappears when people try to speak more carefully and with control, and it's also not likely to be heard from news broadcasters.

From the pitch line alone, it's sometimes hard to tell whether the turning is part of the syllable or not when the part after the turning point is short. Analyzing the vowel quality helps. Also, Tone 3 is low and twisted. The high part is not necessary but the low part is. For example, 212 could also occur as Tone 3 in connected speech, but never would something like 545 be considered as one. Tone 4 is high and sharp. It's more prominent with high/mid-high pitch and the change in pitch is larger than Tone 3 and also faster. Still, we usually confirms it by ears.

In the audio, 口语 only has emphasis of the 1st syllable. This reduced the length and clarity of 语. This includes a scale-down of the pitch contour. But the general shape retains.

enter image description here

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  • Thank you. That helps. If taking a 3rd-tone syllable in isolation, I'm pretty sure I've heard 3rd tones, especially at the end of a sentence, with no curling up in the end. On the other hand, dou1 is supposed to be higher than the end of jiu3 anyway; so why its pitch should be conditioned by the presence of jiu3 is not obvious. But it's true that it is totally unstressed and sounds to me like a neutral tone. If I imagine "jiu3 le" instead of "jiu3 dou1", then jiu3 sounds more recognizable as a 3rd tone to me.
    – Papa Smurf
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 18:12
  • @PapaSmurf "I'm pretty sure I've heard 3rd tones, especially at the end of a sentence, with no curling up in the end. " Could you provide an audio example?
    – lilysirius
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 18:29
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    @PapaSmurf “dou1 is supposed to be higher than the end of jiu3 anyway; so why its pitch should be conditioned by the presence of jiu3 is not obvious.” As a 轻声, it's at the same pitch of the previous ending pitch. This way also lengthens the part after the turning point for the previous syllable, making the tone-3 contour clearer. But here, without any phonetic analysis, 都 hears to me as Tone 1 as a native; it's just too short. If I say it myself, I also treat it as a Tone 1.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 18:35
  • Here's an example. I don't hear any upturn at the end of the last syllable in 口语 (kǒuyǔ). vocaroo.com/1gEVnIg6MMBW
    – Papa Smurf
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 19:24
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    @PapaSmurf I added to my answer some of my experiences distinguishing Tone 3 and Tone 4. I just wrote as things came along so might missing some points.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 21:17

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