This study examines the acoustic properties concerning tonal split and stop onsets in an under-documented Wu Chinese variety, Lili Wu, using speech production data collected from field research. Lili Wu Chinese has been reported to demonstrate an unusual tonal split phenomenon known as “aspiration-induced tonal split” (ATS). ATS refers to the distinct lowering of f0 of a lexical tone over syllables beginning with a voiceless aspirated obstruent, compared to that of syllables beginning with an unaspirated obstruent. Two debates lingering in the existing literature are discussed: (i) is ATS an on-going change or a completed change? and (ii) is it onset aspiration or vowel breathiness that directly triggers ATS? Results suggest that ATS is a completed change, which, however, is conditioned by tonal contexts. Regarding the second debate, results suggest that neither aspiration nor breathiness serves as the direct trigger for tonal split. Moreover, one unexpected on-going sound change was observed: The breathiness of vowels after voiced onsets seems to be disappearing among the younger generation. These findings extend the understanding of the acoustic properties of tonal development in a complex system and highlight the importance of experimental methods in understanding the sound structure and changes of under-documented languages.

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