An acoustic analysis of Burmese tone
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This paper examines the acoustic characteristics that differentiate the four tones of Burmese: high, low, creaky and stopped. The majority of previous work on Burmese tone is impressionistic but recently has become experimental. There are conflicting analyses of how the tones are distinguished. In particular, there is disagreement about the f0 contour of the high and low tones, the consistency of creakiness in the creaky and stopped tones, the role of f0 in distinguishing the creaky and stopped tones, and the vowel quality of the stopped tone. Recordings were made of four native speakers of Burmese, aged 24-30, who read sentences containing a carrier word with one of the four tones and one of two vowels, /a/ and /i/. Seven variables were measured: f0 contour (onset, offset, peak f0, peak delay), duration, voice quality, and vowel quality. It was found that the high and low tones are differentiated from the creaky and stopped tones by onset f0, peak f0, relative peak delay, duration, and voice quality. The high and low tones are distinguished from one another by offset f0, peak f0, relative peak delay, and voice quality. The creaky and stopped tones appear to be differentiated from one another mainly by vowel quality. This paper adds necessary acoustic analysis to the literature on Burmese tone, with the finding that a variety of characteristics is used to distinguish each tone. The findings of this experiment also add to the current understanding of the interactions between tone and phonation, as well as phonation and vowel quality.