Phonetic Realization of Suffix vs. Non-suffix Morphemes in Taiwanese

Szu-wei Chen, Jane Tsay, National Chung Cheng University

We investigated how Taiwanese diminutive suffix -a is phonetically realized in both juncture and context positions. As a grammatical morpheme, suffix -a is similar to Mandarin diminutive suffix -zi as in yi-zi “chair”. While Mandarin suffix -zi always has a neutral tone or belongs to an unstressed syllable, Taiwanese -a is widely accepted as having a full tone. However, due to the same functional use of the grammatical morpheme as Mandarin one, we expect to find similar patterns in Taiwanese. Therefore, we compared F0 contours, mean F0, and duration of Taiwanese suffix -a with a lexical morpheme of the same tone tsa in both juncture position and in the middle position of tri-syllabic words. Different speaking rates were also manipulated, since we expect to see some reductions of the weak element in the fast speaking rate. Our results show that Taiwanese diminutive suffix -a behaves exactly like other full-tone content words and also undergoes tone sandhi as other lexical morphemes do. Even in the middle of tri-syllabic words, there is no reduction in mean F0 and duration.