This dissertation provides a diachronic account of the tone sandhi of Southern Min Chinese (SM) on the basis of an in-depth investigation of the disyllabic final-prominent tone sandhi of 16 SM dialects. Most of the previous studies on SM tone sandhi adopted a synchronic perspective and put the main focus on the phonological alternations from citation tone to sandhi tone or vice versa. The explanatory power of these alternation-based analyses is rather limited as they all failed to accommodate the diversity of different SM tone sandhi patterns. What’s more, the assumption that SM tone sandhi alternation can be treated as generative process has been seriously challenged in the last two decades.
In this dissertation, I present an extensive investigation on the areal variations of the final-prominent tone sandhi of SM, and provide for the first time an explicit and systematic diachronic explanation for these areal variations. 16 SM dialects’ tone sandhi patterns are discussed here and 10 of them are based on acoustic results drawn from first-hand data.
I argue here that SM’s sandhi tones (i.e. non-final tones) and citation tones (and final tones as well) have been changing on divergent paths. Generally speaking, the change of non-final tones is reductive in nature: it tends to reduce the pitch excursion of contour tones and neutralize categories, and it is more prone to contextual effect than final tones (and citation tones) do. On the other hand, the change of final tones (and citation tones) can be characterized as a series of chain shifts, which is non-reductive in nature. It is this difference in direction of change that brings about the unnaturalness in the synchronic phonology of SM tone sandhi.