Tone Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tone Languages

 

languages with phonologically significant tones that differentiate lexical or grammatical meanings.

Tone languages are spoken in Southeast Asia (Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao, Burmese), Africa (Nilotic, Kwa, Bantu), and North America (Mixtecan, Mazatec, Trique). In some tone languages, such as the Sino-Tibetan languages, tones have a primarily lexical significance. In other tone languages, tones may also express such grammatical distinctions as number or gender of nouns, tense, and negation. Examples in Duala (a Bantu language) are à màbòlà (“he gives”) and à mábòlà (“he gave”), and in Dinka (a Nilotic language), pány (“wall”) and pàny (“walls”).

In many tone languages, it is not certain whether there is a relationship between tones and word stress; in others, there are no reliable data on the presence and function of stress. Tone languages in which tone is an obligatory prosodic feature of the syllable are in contrast to intonation languages. In the latter, voiced distinctions of pitch are an element of intonation patterns. Such distinctions are not assigned to specific syllables and are not associated with lexical and grammatical meanings.

REFERENCES

Pike, K. L. Tone Languages, 5th ed. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1961.
Welmers, W. E. African Language Structures. Berkeley–Los Angeles–London, 1973.

V. A. VINOGRADOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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As a tonal language, the recognition of tones contributes significantly to Mandarin recognition because the tonality of a monosyllable is lexically meaningful [20, 21, 34].
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The ensemble, under their director Morris Davies, showed just how adaptable they are, performing the perfect counterpoint of Palestrina and then quickly adapting to the complex tonal language of Gesualdo.
(2) With Adams's music, however, the tonal language is not as neatly defined and predictable as that of common-practice tonality, so our expectations for tonal closure are not as strong, or even nonexistent.
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