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Re: Random Questions #1: Tone Languages

From:Jonathan Knibb <jonathan_knibb@...>
Date:Saturday, March 23, 2002, 16:09
Thanks Trent, David and Christophe for your feedback.  It's nice to know
that the list's here when I need it!

David Peterson wrote:
JK << So: is this tone, pitch accent, or what? >> Huh... So, if I understand write, let's say you have a word "nalama", which can mean anything, and if it's the subject, let's say the first vowel will have a high tone, if it's the direct object, it'll have a low tone, indirect, falling tone, oblique, rising tone...? Is this what you meant when you wrote: JK <<They indicate certain aspects of the syntax,>>? <<< Firstly, thanks for 'nalama' - great word, and fits Telona phonotactics perfectly! What could it mean? <musing - [na:lAmAna:lAmAna:lAmA] > Answers on a postcard to... :)) But seriously: basically, yes, that is what I meant. I would have been more explicit, but Telona doesn't really have categories like subject and object, and to explain exactly what I meant, I would have had to post a complete Telona grammar sketch. (It's coming soon, guys, honest...!) Essentially, each Telona sentence has a strict binary nesting structure, and the accents show the details of this structure. To take a simple example: Wecechet tà de leu sátonna tepei ke lepa. (((wecechet ta) (de (leu satonna))) (tepei (ke lepa))) All the words in this sentence except 'ta', 'satonna' and 'lepa' carry the default accent. Those three words carry the so-called 'close-one', 'close- first-half' and 'final' accents respectively - cf. the fact that only those three words are followed by ) brackets. The exact significance of this nesting scheme will have to wait for my proper web-launch of Telona, hopefully not far in the future now. As for the tone structure itself... Christophe Grandsire a écrit:
- "register tone languages", which refers to languages preferring polysyllabic words with one tone per syllable. <<< Sounds like Telona so far!
Those tones are usually simple, based on usually two levels (high and low), and are usually flat (so we have syllables with high tones and syllables with low tones). Exceptionally they can have non-flat one-directional tones (rising or falling), but never more complicated. A typical word in such a language would be tembang|ali (with a click to look nice :)) ) with tone pattern HLHL (or HHHH, or LLLL, or HLLH, or whatever you want). Register tone languages are common in Africa (Hausa is one). <<< Hell will freeze over before I put clicks in !elona (although I've considered letting my voiced stops implode a little for that genuine tribal feel) <tongue firmly in cheek>, but I think this is basically what I mean, except that there would be stereotyped patterns of these tones. Thank you. I'll go back to the books on my shelf (I have a mini-library of old Teach Yourself volumes, including Swahili, Hausa and Sesotho IIRC) and see what they have to say. David Peterson wrote:
And I suppose if you say each word would only have one accent, then, by the whatchamacallit rule, that accent, or the final part of it, would spread to the remaining vowels, so that if the first tone was high, the rest would be high, and if the first tone was HL, the rest would be L.... That's via the rule that says there are no identical adjacent autosegments [...] <<< Yes, I really *do* need to read up on this a little! (And maybe have a proper go at Ladd's 'Intonational phonology' that's been mouldering on my shelf... :) ) BTW, is anyone else enjoying the Cambridge Studies in Linguistics (CUP) series as much as I am? I'll let you know what happens :) Jonathan. 'O dear white children casual as birds, Playing among the ruined languages...' W. H. Auden, 'Hymn to St. Cecilia'