Department of CTL
International Conference on
Phonetics of the Languages in China
Hong Kong, China    December 2-4, 2013

Invited Speakers


Alexis Michaud
LACITO-CNRS Laboratory, France
Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Vietnam

Alexis Michaud is a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Since 2002, he has been doing fieldwork in China, on Naxi and other languages of the Naish subgroup of Tibeto-Burman. He is a regular contributor to the Pangloss Collection, an online language archive ( His research interests include: Asian languages, experimental phonetics/phonology, prosody, language documentation and conservation, and historical linguistics. Alexis Michaud obtained a Ph.D. in Phonetics at Université Paris 3 - Sorbonne Nouvelle in 2005. His Ph.D. dissertation compared the prosody of two tone languages with that of English, concluding to the inadequacy of tonal descriptions of intonation as proposed by the autosegmental-metrical models which were then dominant, and pointing out the usefulness of functional approaches. Alexis Michaud is currently affiliated to the International Research Institute MICA (Hanoi University of Science and Technology/CNRS/Grenoble INP). He is an Associate member of the Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale research centre (LACITO-CNRS, France), of the Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie research centre (LPP-CNRS, France), of the Dongba Culture Research Institute (丽江市东巴文化研究院, Yunnan, China), and of the Horse-Tea Road Culture Research Centre (云南大学茶马古道文化研究所, Yunnan, China).

Title: Studying level-tone systems in Asia: The case of the Naish languages

This presentation reports on the development of the author’s fieldwork on Naxi, Yongning Na and Laze, three Sino-Tibetan languages of the Naish subgroup. Central issues concern these languages’ prosody: how should their tones be described and modelled? Where do they fit in prosodic typology? How do tone and intonation interact in these languages? The presentation explains how answers to these questions gradually emerged. This presentation may be of interest to linguists working on level-tone systems in an Asian context. Such systems are not unattested in China and Southeast Asia, but have received somewhat less attention than the phonetically complex tones typically found in Sinitic.

Among Naish languages, the tones of Laze and Yongning Na fall squarely in the level-tone type: morpho-phonological alternations provide clear indications for modelling in terms of combinations of three levels, H(igh), M(id) and L(ow). On the other hand, Naxi is somewhat of an outlier among level-tone systems. Naxi has a few alternations that strongly suggest modelling of its tones in terms of three level, corresponding to its three basic lexical tones (H, M and L); but it is an issue wether its fourth lexical tone – a rising tone – should be analyzed as a combination of L+H or M+H: this rising tone is not involved in any morpho-phonological alternations. The current situation of intense contact with Mandarin (widespread bilingualism with Southwestern Mandarin Chinese, and gradual language shift) offers insights into the dynamics of tone systems; it may be that the Naxi rising tone is now handled as a unitary contour (like Mandarin tones), rather than a sequence of levels.


Eric Zee
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
City University of Hong Kong

Eric Zee received his Ph.D. in linguistics with a specialization in experimental phonetics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has done extensive research on phonetics of the sounds of Chinese dialects including Beijing Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka and Shanghai, has contributed substantially to the area. He makes regular phonetic field trips to different locations in China collecting first-hand phonetic data. His research interests include linguistic phonetics, phonetically-based phonology, and phonetic explanation for sound change. He serves on the editorial boards for Phonetica, Journal of the International Phonetic Association, and Chinese Journal of Phonetics (Phonetic Association of China).

Title: Typology of the sounds of the Chinese dialects

The phonetic typology of the vowels, consonants and tones to be presented is based on a survey of the phonetic inventories of the sounds and sound systems of seventy geographically and genetically balanced dialects of eleven Chinese dialect groups, namely Northern Chinese 北方話 (8), Gan 赣语 (8), Wu 吳語 (7), Min 閩語 (9), Yue 粵語 (9), Xiang 湘語 (5), Kejia 客家話 (9), Jin 晉語 (6), Hui 徽語 (5), Ping 平話 (2), and Tu 土話 (2). The paper presents phonetic typological generalizations with respect to (i) vowels in open and closed syllables, (ii) nasal vowels, (iii) syllable-initial and syllable-final consonants, (iv) systems of oral vowels, (v) consonant systems, (vi) long and checked tones, and (vii) tone systems. The findings are discussed in connection with the typology and universals of vowel systems (Crothers, 1978), the principle of maximal and sufficient perceptual contrast of vowel quality and vowel system size (Liljencrants and Lindblom, 1972; Lindblom, 1986), constancy of the sonorant-obstruent proportions (Lindblom and Maddieson, 1988), and the issue of compensation in sound inventory structure - whether a simple inventory in one area such as the consonants is compensated by an elaboration of vowels and tones in a sound system (Maddieson, 1999).


Aijun Li
Institute of Linguistics
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Aijun Li is the director of Laboratory of Phonetics and Speech Science, Institute of linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Her academic interests include speech prosody, first and second language acquisition especially on phonetic aspects, emotional and expressive speech production and perception. She now serves as the associate editor of Chinese Journal of Phonetics, the vice President of Phonetics Association of China, the vice chair of the SIG-CSLP, the Executive Committee Members of international Association of Chinese Linguistics and the steering committee member of Oriental COCOSDA.

Title: Phonetics research from a multidisciplinary perspective: An introduction to phonetics research at the Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Toward the end of 2011, the Phonetics Laboratory, Institute of Linguistics, CASS, as one of the first pilot laboratories and institutes, was enrolled in the Innovation Program of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and was awarded an innovation project, entitled ‘Key Laboratory of Phonetics and Speech Sciences of CASS’. Supported by the Innovation Program and equipped with new techniques and advanced research tools, the laboratory has been devoted to basic research, empirical and theoretical, in the fields of phonetics and speech sciences from a multidisciplinary perspective. Our main research areas cover typological study on dialectal phonetics and grammars, language acquisition and cognitive development, multi-modal research on discourses, speech production (three-dimensional pronunciation modeling), and internet application platform of phonetics and language resources. This report will focus on the current progress and outcomes in the following three aspects:

(1) Language as an advanced complex cognitive system

The system is comprised of multiple layers of interconnected abstract representations. Despite the complexity, infants can acquire the system easily within the first few years of life. This indicates that human is endowed with innate capacity to acquire language. We aim to explore infants' phonological development through analysis of their speech perception and production. We conducted perceptual experiments - habituation and intermodal preferential looking paradigm - on infants and toddlers (4-30 months) to ascertain how sensitivity to native and non-native phonetic categories changes with the accumulation of their experience of the ambient language. We also collected cross-sectional (1;5-6;0) and longitudinal (1;0-4;0) data on a large scale.

Furthermore, we analyzed the acoustic features of infant-directed speech and the developmental patterns of children's phoneme production at different ages.

Besides behavioral experiments, we also used computer model (Growing Self-Organizing Map, GSOM) to simulate the acquisition of phonetic categories and semantic categories. Some preliminary results were obtained.

Regarding phonological development in second language learning, we have collected 10,000 hours of speech samples from Chinese English-learners of different dialectal backgrounds in mainland China (AESOP-CASS). The characteristics of intonation and stress in English spoken by Chinese English-learners were analyzed and compared with those by native English speakers.

(2) Representative system of spontaneous discourses and prosodic researches

Phonetic researches on spoken discourses would improve the performances of discourse comprehension and spoken language translation. The researches concentrated on the representative system of the discourse structure and the phonetic-syntax interface in discourses. Specifically, it explores the relationship between grammatical and rhythmic features of pronominal anaphora, decoding of perception of echo questions in spontaneous conversation, and distributions of the functions of interrogative pronouns in different types of discourses.

The research also focuses on the encoding and decoding process of emotional speech during interactive communications based on an improved Brunswik’s Lens Model, including emotional intonation patterns, emotional speech articulation, emotional speech simulation, and multi-channel perception.

(3) Jiuzhou Yuyanwang: the Chinese language resources service platform

A set of Internet-based phonetics and language online resources service and learning platform was built up to promote the co-construction, sharing and utilization of domestic phonetics and language resources. The currently online running platform includes:
Word and phrase service (
Phonetic and speech resources of Chinese dialects (
Grammatical investigation and survey of Chinese dialects (

Page last updated: 19 November 2013