The goal of this research is to understand the relation between underlying pitch targets and the articulatory constraints in pitch production, and the relation between local and global aspects of intonation. We will investigate in both Chinese and English three factors important for forming surface F0 contours: (a) the nature of underlying local pitch targets, (b) the articulatory constraints under which pitch targets are implemented, and (c) the interaction between global intonation patterns and local pitch targets. Part 1 of the project will investigate how underlying pitch targets and articulatory constraints jointly determine the shape and alignment of local pitch contours. We will examine the effect of time pressure on the shape and alignment of F0 contours in Mandarin. We will also investigate the magnitude of articulatory constraints by examining how fast native speakers of Mandarin, Shanghai and English can change their pitch repeatedly in opposite directions. Part 2 will investigate local F0 contours related to focus in English affirmative and interrogatory sentences. We will examine the pitch targets associated with focal prominence in English to determine their underlying properties and how they are realized under articulatory constraints. Part 3 will extend the investigation into global intonation patterns. We will try to determine whether there exist global intonation patterns whose integrity is dependent on the presence of all their constituents, and how these constituents interact with local pitch contours. We will study a number of global intonation patterns in both English and Mandarin using a newly devised paradigm. The paradigm will allow us to induce relatively complicated intonation patterns under laboratory conditions while maintaining rigorous experimental control. The improved understanding of intonation that this project seeks to achieve may benefit the areas of automatic speech synthesis and recognition, speech and language pathology, and second language teaching.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-CMS (02))
Program Officer
Shekim, Lana O
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Northwestern University at Chicago
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Chen, Yiya; Xu, Yi (2006) Production of weak elements in speech -- evidence from F(0) patterns of neutral tone in Standard Chinese. Phonetica 63:47-75
Liu, Fang; Xu, Yi (2005) Parallel encoding of focus and interrogative meaning in Mandarin intonation. Phonetica 62:70-87
Xu, Yi; Larson, Charles R; Bauer, Jay J et al. (2004) Compensation for pitch-shifted auditory feedback during the production of Mandarin tone sequences. J Acoust Soc Am 116:1168-78
Xu, Yi; Sun, Xuejing (2002) Maximum speed of pitch change and how it may relate to speech. J Acoust Soc Am 111:1399-413
Sun, Xuejing; Xu, Yi (2002) Perceived pitch of synthesized voice with alternate cycles. J Voice 16:443-59
Xu, Y (2001) Fundamental frequency peak delay in Mandarin. Phonetica 58:26-52