Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ    Attic   

Re: Lots of Questions About Tones (more questions)

From:Eldin Raigmore <eldin_raigmore@...>
Date:Monday, July 14, 2008, 16:19
On Sun, 13 Jul 2008 21:21:29 -0400, Alex Fink <000024@...> wrote:
Alex, I really appreciate your latest, and it deserves a better answer than I can give at the moment. I'm a newbie to tones; probably someone else here has the examples you asked for, but I'm afraid I don't.
>[snip] >Right. What I was driving towards was asking what sort of schemes of >conditioning factors for allotony actually turn up in contour(s1) langs, and >in particular whether there can be said to be underlying pitch levels at >which each of the tonemes is realised, say when words occur in isolation. >Do you have any examples to hand of (claimed) contour(s1) languages and >their systems of allotony?
Unfortunately, not at the moment. I have speculation, and I suspect it's close to reasonable, but I'm not sure and have no concrete facts to support it.
>[snip] >Suppose we speak a language in which, say, /ma5/ and /ma3/ are >distinguished. I wouldn't expect the tonemes /5/ and /3/ to correspond to >fixed pitches, but to respectively high and neutral points within a given >speaker's range, given that different speakers have different vocal ranges >(and this is the case even if any single speaker's deployment of the tones >uses absolutely constant pitches). So if you came up to me and intoned /ma/ >and nothing else, I wouldn't know whether that was /ma5/ and your neutral >pitch was lower than that utterance, or /ma3/ and your neutral pitch matched >it. But it would be unwarranted to attribute to our language a contour(s1) >system on the strength of this alone.
I get it. Pitches are speaker-dependent. For a given speaker, they are constant, or rather slowly-varying. (Except for adolescent boys!)
>Perfect pitch would be, in a weak sense,
OK; what's "Perfect pitch in a weak sense"?
>helpful in the understanding of a tone language in which tonemes did in fact >have constant speaker-invariant frequencies. At least, in this case, it would >allow me to figure out which word your /ma/ was.
Yes. But "speaker-invariant", or rather "speaker-independent", absolute-pitch- sensitive tonal languages, are probably not common. I'd be surprised if there are any.
>Now, to introduce a question of my own, it seems to me that the actual >benefits of perfect(s1) pitch
What's "perfect(s1) pitch"?
>in understanding a register tone language would be extremely marginal -- >it's only necessary to distinguish between a family of utterances whose >tone-patterns are all transpositions, in the musical sense, of the >same melody. For any utterance that's not extremely short, most or all of >these transpositions would contain a tone outside the tonal range of our >language, and of the ones that don't presumably all but one would be quite >likely to be lexically or gramatically or semantically incoherent.
Makes sense.
>In a contour(s1) pitch language, the benefits of perfect pitch would be >precisely nil (only interval discrimination would be required).
Yes; in my music "sight-singing and ear-training" classes, when we were supposed to "take dictation" (that is, right down music we heard), we were told to "listen intervalicallyl". The statement made was that most people have pretty fine discrimination of (remembered) intervals, but not such great discrimination of (remembered) pitches.
>[snip] >Nonetheless, one hears claims -- such as the one at
< >
>-- that speakers of Mandarin are "almost nine times more likely" to have >perfect pitch than speakers of unspecified non-tonal language. >This surprises me,
I thought I'd read discussion, either here or on ZBB or on CBB, that that article was probably nonsense? I don't remember what the article itself said, so I can't criticize their methods nor their database.
>given what I speculated above about vocal range, and especially given that >Mandarin seems one of the more likely langs to fit into the contour(s1) >framework: of its four tones that can appear on strong syllables, if one >regards tone 3 as dipping, none is a transposition of any other.
>So what's going on here? Is this correlation true? Is my speculation misled? >I've not heard analogous claims about tonal languages outside of East Asia, >in particular IE langs; is that 'cause they don't hold there, or just 'cause they >haven't been investigated?
Here are my guesses:
>Is this correlation true?
I guess "this correlation is not true".
>Is my speculation misled?
I guess "your speculation is indeed correct."
>is that 'cause they don't hold there,
I guess "they don't hold there".
>or just 'cause they haven't been investigated?
I guess "they haven't been investigated". I have no support for these amateurish guesses of mine.