Tone Languages

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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.


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


References in periodicals archive ?
In particular, tonal languages such as Vietnamese can be a major challenge for speakers of English.
As the examples from Phrygian Gates and The Chairman Dances will demonstrate, Adams does not use a consistent, readily analyzable tonal language in his works from this period.
Vietnamese is an essentially monosyllabic, tonal language.
There may be some `anxiety of influence' here, but Schubert's musical and aesthetic approaches are as different from Beethoven's as Berg's are from Schoenberg's; indeed, some may be inclined to wonder why Beethoven could not achieve the extraordinary tonal language of a Schubert.
Mandarin, like Cantonese and Vietnamese, is a tonal language in which the pitch of a spoken word is essential to its meaning, reports New Scientist.
A decidedly weaker fifth chapter picks up from comments by Olin Downes and Arthur Berger to explore the extent to which Hindemith achieved an "American style," not an easy task given the stability of Hindemith's tonal language and aesthetic priorities after 1937.
By comparison the other premiere, Songs of Eternity and Sorrow by Ian Venables, was so gorgeously and unashamedly lyrical in its tonal language - and very well sung too by tenor Andrew Kennedy - you felt even Finzi himself would have been proud to own it.
Having a bilingual map is useful, as Cantonese is a tonal language and what sounds perfectly clear to a non-tonal ear could mean any one of a dozen things to the driver.
In this context, Eric Chafe's proposed model for investigating the tonal language of Monteverdi and his time seems especially important.
The cogency of Ossi's discussions resides in conducting textual and musical analyses both at the same level of insight (something lacking, for the literary side, in Eric Chafe's otherwise outstanding Monteverdi's Tonal Language [New York: Schirmer, 1992]).
Ivory coloured Latte and Macaron, who comes in a fetching tone of grey, both boast new features such as a 75-word vocabulary, increased photo-taking options and new Aibo tonal language options - which means they can learn and respond to the names they are given - as well as interactive sensors on their heads and paws.
This chapter directly responds to the important work of Yoko Tanese-Ito, who argues that classical vocal melodies conform strongly to the contours of spoken Thai, a tonal language.