Changed tone

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Cantonese changed tones (also called pinjam;[1] traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: biànyīn; Jyutping: bin3jam1; Cantonese Yale: binyàm) occur when a word's tone becomes a different tone due to a particular context or meaning. The changed tone is the tone of the word when read in a particular lexical or grammatical context, while the base (or underlying) tone is usually the tone of the word when read in citation.[2] In its most common form, it occurs on the final syllable of either a compound word, a reduplicated word, or specific examples of vocatives, especially in direct address to family members.[2]

It usually takes the form of a non-high level, non-mid rising tone (i.e. tones 3, 4, 5, and 6 in Jyutping and Yale; see Cantonese phonology for further information on the tones in Cantonese) transforming into a mid-rising tone (tone 2); in some speakers, this changed tone is slightly lower than the citation mid-rising tone. In speakers with the high falling tone, this may also become the high level tone via the same process.[1] In many speakers, another form of a changed tone used in specific vocatives that may also result in a high level tone (tone 1), rather than in a mid-level tone.[3] It is distinct from tone sandhi, which are automatic modifications of tone created by their phonetic environment, without regard to meaning.


  1. ^ a b (Yu 2007)
  2. ^ a b (Yip and Matthews 2000)
  3. ^ Alan C. L. Yu (publ. pending) "Tonal Mapping in Cantonese Vocative Reduplication", Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society. Available online, accessed 4th November, 2011