Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2023

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (A.B.)




This paper aims to create an Optimality Theory ranking of tonal phonology constraints in Shanghai Chinese (Shanghainese) monosyllables. Previous research on tonal phonology in Shanghainese preceded the more recent research on Optimality Theory which may provide new principles to justify the language’s tonal phonology system. I use inputs composed of High (H) and Low (L) tone combinations and 8 constraints, (3 faithfulness and 5 markedness constraints) to motivate the distribution of tones in Shanghainese monosyllable in four environments: KV, GV, KVʔ, GVʔ. The faithfulness constraints include DEP, MAX, and IDENT. The markedness constraints include *KL, *GH, POLARITY, [AGREE]ʔ, and *L/ʔ. The [AGREE]ʔ constraint is undominated which produces solely level tone outputs in the KVʔ and GVʔ environment. Contour tone sequences emerge as winners in the KV and GV environment due to the high ranking of POLARITY. The interaction of tone-specific constraints produces 3 languages that correctly correspond to the tone outputs of Shanghainese monosyllables. Shanghainese is metrically sensitive at both the moraic and the syllable level which enriches its tonal phonology analysis. Further research can be conducted on connected speech at the polysyllabic level.


Brett Hyde