UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The realization of tone in singing in Cantonese and Mandarin Schellenberg, Murray Henry


There are many ways that cultures with tone languages may deal with the interaction of linguistic tone and music. Contemporary vocal music in both Mandarin and Cantonese stems from a common source, a new style of Chinese music that developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but the two musics realize linguistic tone differently. This thesis examines experimentally the differences in the phonetic manifestation of tone in singing in both Cantonese and Mandarin as well as examining the comprehensibility of the sung words. One set of experiments asked native speakers to sing songs containing minimal sets by tone. The second set of experiments had native speakers try to recognize the set of words extracted from the songs. Cantonese singers included a rising contour when singing words with rising tones and Cantonese listeners were attuned to this. Mandarin singers did not add in contour information and Mandarin listeners had difficulty recognizing the words out of context. The thesis also expands the discussion of singing in tone languages by examining some of the sociological and political factors which appear to have influenced the ways in which tone is expressed (or not) in these two varieties of Chinese.

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