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Re: Explaining tone to a non-linguist; pharyngeals; noun incorporation

From:John Quijada <jq_ithkuil@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 16, 2004, 21:08
Trebor Jung wrote:

>How do you explain tone to a non-linguist? I'm writing a course for one of >my languages, and its vowels have high and low tone (and BTW
voicelessness). ____________________ If I were explaining tone to a non-linguist, I’d illustrate it via analogy to their native language (or mine). For example, while English does not use tone morphologically (grammatically), it does use it “supra- segmentally” to convey various subjective attitudes, expectations and assumptions on the part of the speaker which are to be applied to the semantic context of the utterance. Thus, you can first show examples of how tone is used in English to convey such information, and then analogize this to the idea of using tone to convey morphological information instead (e.g., tense, aspect, case, etc.) To illustrate what I’m talking about, how about something like the following (NOTE: As a native speaker of English, I’m throwing together the following examples out of my head without reference to a formal phonology textbook, so my use of five tones may in fact not be correct for English): A single English sentence can convey many subtle nuances of attitude, expectations, and assumptions when applied to an actual spoken context, depending on the various changes in one’s voice-pitch applied to the words. Let’s take the simple question “Where have you been?” as an example. English speakers utilize 5 different relative voice-pitches when speaking which I will number 1 (low), 2 (mid-low), 3 (mid), 4(mid-high), 5 (high). Applying these pitch contours to this sentence in different ways gives the following results: PITCH: 3 3 3 5 2 WORDS: Where have you been? CONTEXT: neutral inquiry with no pre-conceived attitude or assumptions PITCH: 2 4 2 2 3 2 WORDS: Where HAVE you BEEN? CONTEXT: conveys annoyance/anger/frustration due to concern over addressee’s absence PITCH: 2 3 4 1 2 WORDS: Where have you been? CONTEXT: implied threat: addressee was expected to be there earlier and will now face negative consequences or punishment Additional pitch contours can be illustrated via a hypothetical response from the addressee to the questioner, consisting of the rhetorical question “Where have I been?” PITCH: 4 3 2 5 2 WORDS: Where have I been? CONTEXT: rhetorical response conveying surprise at having been asked the original question PITCH: 3 3 2 4 5 WORDS: Where have I been? CONTEXT: conveys annoyance at being asked the original question; implies that original questioner should either know the answer already or that asking about my whereabouts is irrelevant or beside the point. Other pitch contours are seen in the following examples: PITCH: 3 4 2 3 4 2 3 4 2 WORDS: Well! OR Aha! OR So! CONTEXT: exclamation of ironic surprise upon discovering something hidden or someone doing something illicit, giving the discoverer a moral or social advantage over the person discovered PITCH: 3 2 4 WORDS: Well? CONTEXT: indicates disapproval and request for explanation These examples show that individual words can be pronounced with a single steady pitch, or with a dynamic pitch-contour consisting of two or three different pitches. Tone languages apply such patterns of pitch to individual words, even syllables within a word, to convey morphological information. Such systematic patterns are called “tones” and vary from language to language. (At this point you could give examples from specific tone languages using the numerical system above or a wavering line drawn parallel to the sentence to show the specific tone patterns for the language and what they represent morphologically). You might also take a look at Sec. 1.3.2 of the Phonology chapter in the Ithkuil grammar to see how I used graphic representations to explain tone. --John Quijada