The typology of sibilant place contrasts in the high-front vowel context across Chinese dialects

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Previous studies have shown that the occurrence of a phonological contrast may be influenced by its phonetic contexts such that the same consonantal contrast is allowed in one vowel context but avoided in another. For sibilants, one observed tendency is the avoidance of their place contrasts in a phonetic [_i] context, e.g., a [si-ɕi-ʂi] contrast is absent in Mandarin Chinese, although the same sibilant place contrast is allowed in other vowel contexts. This tendency is examined across Chinese dialects with diverse sibilant inventories, testing its validity in dialects with a three-way versus two-way place distinction, in different manners of articulation, and in voiceless versus voiced sibilants. The results of the typological survey show that (i) the tendency to avoid sibilant place contrasts in the [_i] context exists in the dialects with a three-way and two-way place distinction alike, confirming the observation in previous studies, and (ii) for such a tendency, affricates generally behave like their fricative counterparts and voiced sibilants have the same pattern as voiceless ones. Analyses based on the results indicate that this typological pattern is likely to be influenced by both perceptual and articulatory factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-438
Number of pages52
JournalJournal of East Asian Linguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Sibilant
  • Place contrast
  • Language typology
  • Chinese dialects


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