The Structure of Tone

The Structure of Tone

The Structure of Tone

The Structure of Tone


This book argues a fresh theory about the structure of tone. Bao investigates a wide range of tone sandhi data from various Chinese dialects and other Asian tone languages, providing empirical support for his proposal that tone is a formal entity which consists of register and contour. Bao establishes a clear typological distinction between register tone languages and contour tone languages whose contour tones have a more complex structure.


This book is based on my 1990 MIT dissertation, On the Nature of Tone, completed under the supervision of Morris Halle. I decided to retain the bulk of the dissertation, in order to keep its theoretical concern, and the overall structure of its argumentation. I have, however, incorporated works on tone that have been published since 1990. Revising the dissertation forced me to think more carefully about some of the controversial issues in tonology, and scholarly critique allows me to see my own work in a new light. I hope the present volume represents an improvement over the dissertation.

During the writing of the dissertation, I have benefited from formal or informal discussions with various people. In particular, I would like to thank my committee members, Francois Dell, Ken Hale, and Morris Halle; and other phonotogists who have influenced me in one way or another: Matthew Chen, Michael Kenstowitcz, Duanmu San, Donca Steriade, and Moira Yip. The dissertation could not have been written without their input. Francois readily shared with me his knowledge of Southeast Asian languages and Chinese dialects, and his theoretical insights. Ken drew my attention to more global issues, and to the formal similarities among different branches of linguistics. Morris's guidance improved the quality of my argument enormously. In fact, the dissertation took shape as much in the talks I had with him as in the time between the talks. Donca and Michael taught me phonology, and discussed with me some of the issues that eventually found their way into the dissertation. To Moira I owe an enormous intellectual debt, which is obvious in the following pages. And finally, I feel encouraged by Matthew's sharp-minded critique of my work, and by his continued interest in tonological issues.

I am grateful to my former teachers and colleagues at Fudan University, Shanghai, especially Cheng Yumin and Xu Liejiong. I am also grateful to two scholars of Chinese philosophy, Henry Rosemont, Jr. and Chad Hansen. They may not be aware of it, but their influence on me, linguistic or otherwise, has been enormous.

Finally, I thank Oxford University Press for giving me the opportunity to publish this book and the editors Peter Ohlin and MaryBeth Branigan for their fine work.

Zhiming Bao Singapore, December 1998 . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.