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Shanghainese Tone Sandhi (?)


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Got an understanding of basic tone sandhi in Shanghainese. This blog post explains the basics pretty clearly: http://sinoglot.com/2012/10/shh-sandhi/


At the end it says "we'll look at how things can get a little more complicated in the next post", but unfortunately, I can't find any such post. So I'm left wondering a couple things.


What constitutes one of these phrases? Do words ever stand alone and retain their original tones in sentences?


For example, 吾要去买衣裳 (我要去买衣服). 


Do the first three words stand alone and retain their original tones, while 买衣裳 follows the tone sandhi rules? 

Or does everything stand alone except 衣裳 which follows tone sandhi as a compound word? 

Or... does 吾要去 make one, and 买衣裳 another?


Native speakers usually only realize the tone sandhi when you point it out to them, and can't explain it. So, I'm coming here for help on this, hoping someone might have a clue. Thanks!

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I have procured a book on Shanghainese with a load of example sentences with pinyin and tone marks (上海话900句). It appears that some single character words stand alone and retain their original tones in sentences, while two or more character words follow tone sandhi rules, as well as some kind of adjective or verb phrases.


So in my example it would be as I first assumed. 吾要去买衣裳 = ŋu²³ iɔ³⁴ ʨʰi³⁴ mɑ²²i⁵⁵zɑ̃²¹.


The first three characters stand alone and so retain their original tones, while 买衣裳 is a verb phrase and follows the LHL tone contour. I also listened to a native speaker say this sentence and this is how it sounded to me.


I'm sure there's more to this system than that, but this is what I've figured out... in case anyone is reading along.

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I have never been able to get my head around Shanghainese tone sandhi (from the theoretical point of view; but then I'm not a speaker of it either!)


There's some formatting issues with the website as it stands, so that you can't see the underline for tones 7 and 8. They're on the first syllables, and I think it just means that the "checked" nature of the tone, the glottal stop, is preserved after sandhi. (Not all varieties of Chinese with sandhi and with checked tone do keep it.) You notice that tone 4 (陰入) follows the same pattern as tone 2 (陰去) for anything less than five-syllable domains.


Tone 5 (陽入) has two realisations at the head of four-syllable domains: it can produce a "tone shift", where the rising nature of tone 5 occurs at the end, and so the tone rises throughout the domain; or it can produce the usual "tone spread". I can't source whether tone shift happens in pentasyllabic domains though - Wikipedia says so, but Sinoglot doesn't have anything on that.



The big topic that I'd imagine Sinoglot was going to expound upon was the right-prominent tone sandhi phenomenon that Shanghainese also has. Right-prominent in that the latter of the two (usually applies to bisyllable compounds, often verb-noun compounds) syllables keeps its tone, and the earlier syllable's tone changes (like most tone sandhi across Chinese varieties).


I'm not nearly familiar enough to understand how the two types of sandhi interact.

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There is a fair number of books available about Shanghainese, although the majority of them are not currently in print. I have probably about 20-30 such books, but most are completely useless. As far as I recall, only two books have ever gone into any depth on tones and tone sandhi. Unfortunately my books are all back in the UK and I can only remember one of the books - 上海话语法 published in 1997. This explains over several pages the various tones and sandhi operational in Shanghainese.


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Hmm, yeah. Right-prominent sandhi is something I need to read up on. I don't really understand the Wikipedia article where it shows "Possible Left Syllable Tone Values in Right-Prominent Sandhi", but then the examples don't seem to follow the chart.


Thanks for the book suggestion. I'll see if I can get a hold of that one! 

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  • 7 months later...

Hello! I'm romanian and I

> wanna learn Shanghainese. I need a

> little bit of help understanding the

> tone sandhi patterns. Please correct

> me if I'm wrong: 1) unvoiced

> consonant plus long vowel=high

> tone; 2) voiced consonant plus long

> vowel=low tone; 3) unvoiced

> consonant plus short/clipped

> vowel=low tone; 4) voiced


> plus short/clipped vowel=low tone.

> These refer to the first syllable in a

> word. My question is: what pattern

> do we need to follow when there is


> null initial (vowel only) syllable at

> the beginning? Thank you! Ovidiu

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What romanisation are you using? According to the one used here:


現在 = yieze (y is voiced, so the word has a low tone beginning). IPA given is [ɦi.zɛ].

屋里向 = ohlishian (there is the null initial, and the vowel is short, so it also has a low tone beginning with "middle high" pattern. IPA [oʔ.li.ɕjɑ̃]

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