Musical Intervals of Tones in Cantonese English

Suki Yiu


It has been shown that the relative pitch levels of Cantonese tones closely correspond to musical intervals (MIs). Given that an emerging tone language, Cantonese English, has developed tone under the substrate influence of Cantonese, this paper examines the correspondence between the newly emerged tones and MIs, and how the musical analogy relates to those established for Cantonese. The fundamental frequencies of the tones produced by six speakers of Cantonese English were extracted with Praat, then time-normalized across rhymes. The mean values of the interval points of two tones were expressed in terms of ratio, then matched with the closest MI on the musical scale. This paper demonstrates that the pitch levels of tones in Cantonese English correspond to MIs, given the converging ranges of MIs for different speakers and similar MIs of different tone pairs for different speakers. It also shows that the MIs of tones in Cantonese English are related to the corresponding tone pairs for Cantonese. The viability of MI as a means to understand the tonal system of non-tonal languages whose speakers’ native language is tonal extends the link between the use of pitch in speech tones and music.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-105

Cite as: Yiu, S. (2014) Musical Intervals of Tones in Cantonese English. Proc. 7th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2014, 587-591, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-105.


@inproceedings{Yiu2014,
  author={Suki Yiu},
  title={{Musical Intervals of Tones in Cantonese English}},
  year=2014,
  booktitle={Proc. 7th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2014},
  pages={587--591},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-105},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2014-105}
}