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    • Join Date: Mar 2010
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    #1

    Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    In the process of trying to master Mandarin tone sandhi, I recently looked into the Wikipedia article of the same name. There I found the following interesting statement: "... tone sandhi is a phonemic and not just a phonetic change in tone."

    My knowledge in this area is thin, but I have to say that doesn't make sense to me. If I understand these things correctly, sandhi, by definition, could only be a phonetic change. Why would anyone call sandhi -- any kind of sandhi -- a phonemic change?

    If someone is able to clarify this for me, I may do some editing on the Wikipedia article to correct or improve this point.


    • Join Date: Dec 2009
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    #2

    Re: Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    Quote Originally Posted by dratman View Post
    In the process of trying to master Mandarin tone sandhi, I recently looked into the Wikipedia article of the same name. There I found the following interesting statement: "... tone sandhi is a phonemic and not just a phonetic change in tone."

    My knowledge in this area is thin, but I have to say that doesn't make sense to me. If I understand these things correctly, sandhi, by definition, could only be a phonetic change. Why would anyone call sandhi -- any kind of sandhi -- a phonemic change?

    If someone is able to clarify this for me, I may do some editing on the Wikipedia article to correct or improve this point.
    (Not a teacher)

    I don't have any knowledge of Sandhi, but I do know the difference between phonetics and phonemes.

    If there is a phonetic difference only, then it would mean that the sound is different to the listener, but the difference in sound has no linguistic meaning.

    If there is a phonemic difference, then it means that there is a phonetic difference - a difference in sound - but that the difference creates a different linguistic meaning.

    To take an often used example, the sounds 'l' and 'r' in English are phonemes - the difference sound produces a difference in meaning. 'leaf' vs. 'reef' for example. However, in some asian languages, these sounds only have a phonetic difference - using 'l' for 'r' doesn't change the meaning, and is perceived as being an acceptable variation of the sound.

    Summing up then:

    Phonetic difference - difference in sound, but not linguistic meaning.
    Phonemic difference - difference in sound and linguistic meaning.

    I hope this makes sense.


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    #3

    Re: Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    Exactly my point. So, since sandhi only changes the sound, not the meaning, surely there is no phonemic change.


    • Join Date: Dec 2009
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    #4

    Re: Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    From the sentence on Wikipedia:

    Thus the greeting written nǐhǎo in pinyin, composed of the dipping-tone words (你) "you" and hǎo (好) "well", is pronounced more like níhǎo. That is, tone sandhi is a phonemic and not just phonetic change in tone.

    From this, I gather that the 'phonemic' change is the fact that it is two seperate words - 'you' and 'well'. However, the different tone between the two seperate words said seperately compared to said in the word 'nǐhǎo' creates a new meaning - a greeting. The tone alone has created meaning.

    Again, I don't know anything about this.

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    #5

    Re: Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    Quote Originally Posted by Linguist__ View Post
    I don't have any knowledge of Sandhi
    I think it should be sandhi, shouldn't it?


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    #6

    Re: Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    Quote Originally Posted by mmasny View Post
    I think it should be sandhi, shouldn't it?
    Yes, it should, exemplifying my ignorance of it.


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    #7

    Re: Tone sandhi: phonetic or phonemic change?

    Linguist, that's the article I want to correct.

    Say, I just noticed this is supposed to be a forum about English! I got here by searching for "tone sandhi," and found a relevant post, but I guess I've asked my question in the wrong place. Sorry.

    Ralph

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