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Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information and to convey emphasis, contrast and other such features in what is called intonation, but not all languages use tones to distinguish words or their inflections, analogously to consonants and vowels. Languages that have this feature are called tonal languages; the distinctive tone patterns of such a language are sometimes called tonemes, by analogy with phoneme. Tonal languages are common in East and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific.

Six Tones of Vietnamese
The four main tones of Standard Mandarin, pronounced with the syllable ma.
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see . For the distinction between[ ],/ / and ⟨⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Most of the tonal marks in languages usually come in the form of diacritics, like the Vietnamese tonal marks, which use five diacritics, including a grave accent (À), an acute accent (Á), a tilde (Ã), a hook above the letter (Ả), and a dot below the vowel (Ạ), and the flat accent without a diacritic. Vietnamese Latin alphabet with tone marks was developed before the invention of Mandarin Chinese pinyin (romanization).

Mandarin Chinese uses four diacritical marks for the four tones of pinyin, signifying the pitch of the syllable. The first tone is a high level tone (mā, symbolized by a macron), the second tone is a rising tone (má, symbolized by an acute accent), the third tone is a slight fall followed by a rising tone (mǎ, symbolized by a caron/háček), and the fourth tone is a falling tone (mà, symbolized by a grave accent). There is also a neutral tone in Chinese, which signifies that the syllable is pronounced lightly, but the pitch depends chiefly on the tone of the preceding syllable.

Tonal languages are different from pitch-accent languages in that tonal languages can have each syllable with an independent tone whilst pitch-accent languages may have one syllable in a word or morpheme that is more prominent than the others.

Contents

Most languages use pitch as intonation to convey prosody and pragmatics, but this does not make them tonal languages. In tonal languages, each syllable has an inherent pitch contour, and thus minimal pairs (or larger minimal sets) exist between syllables with the same segmental features (consonants and vowels) but different tones. Vietnamese by far has the most heavily studied tone system as well as amongst its various dialects. Below is a table of the six Vietnamese tones and their corresponding tone accent or diacritics:

Vietnamese tones ngang "flat" tone, huyền "deep" tone or "falling" tone (À), sắc "sharp" or "rising" tone (Á), nặng "heavy" or "down" tone (Ạ), hỏi "asking" tone (Ả), ngã "tumbling" tone (Ã)
Tone name Tone ID Vni/telex/Viqr Description Chao Tone Contour Diacritic Example
ngang "flat" A1 [default] mid level ˧ (33) a
huyền "deep" A2 2 / f / ` low falling (breathy) ˨˩ (21) or (31) ◌̀ à
sắc "sharp" B1 1 / s / ' mid rising, tense ˧˥ (35) ◌́ á
nặng "heavy" B2 5 / j / . mid falling, glottalized, heavy ˧ˀ˨ʔ (3ˀ2ʔ) or ˧ˀ˩ʔ (3ˀ1ʔ)
hỏi "asking" C1 3 / r / ? mid falling(-rising), emphasis ˧˩˧ (313) or (323) or (31) ◌̉
ngã "tumbling" C2 4 / x / ~ mid rising, glottalized ˧ˀ˥ (3ˀ5) or (4ˀ5) ◌̃ ã

Mandarin Chinese, which has five tones, transcribed by letters with diacritics over vowels:

The tone contours of Standard Chinese. In the convention for Chinese, 1 is low and 5 is high. The corresponding tone letters are˥ ˧˥ ˨˩˦ ˥˩.
  1. A high level tone: /á/ (pinyin ⟨ā⟩)
  2. A tone starting with mid pitch and rising to a high pitch: /ǎ/ (pinyin ⟨á⟩)
  3. A low tone with a slight fall (if there is no following syllable, it may start with a dip then rise to a high pitch): /à/ (pinyin ⟨ǎ⟩)
  4. A short, sharply falling tone, starting high and falling to the bottom of the speaker's vocal range: /â/ (pinyin ⟨à⟩)
  5. A neutral tone, with no specific contour, used on weak syllables; its pitch depends chiefly on the tone of the preceding syllable.

These tones combine with a syllable such as ma to produce different words. A minimal set based on ma are, in pinyin transcription:

  1. (/) 'mother'
  2. (/) 'hemp'
  3. (/) 'horse'
  4. (/) 'scold'
  5. ma (/) (an interrogative particle)

These may be combined into the rather contrived sentence:

Simplified:妈妈骂马的麻吗?
Traditional:媽媽罵馬的麻嗎?
Pinyin: Māma mà mǎde má ma?
IPA/máma mâ màtə mǎ ma/
Translation: 'Is mom scolding the horse's hemp?'

A well-known tongue-twister in Standard Thai is:

ไหมใหม่ไหม้มั้ย.
IPA:/mǎi mài mâi mái/
Translation: 'Does new silk burn?'

A Vietnamese tongue twister:

Bấy nay bây bày bảy bẫy bậy.
IPA:[ɓʌ̌i̯ nai̯ ɓʌi̯ ɓʌ̂i̯ ɓa᷉i̯ ɓʌ̌ˀi̯ ɓʌ̂ˀi̯]
Translation: 'All along you've set up the seven traps incorrectly!'

A Cantonese tongue twister:

一人因一日引一刃一印而忍
Jyutping: jat1 jan4 jan1 jat1 jat6 jan5 jat1 jan6 jat1 jan3 ji4 jan2
IPA:
Translation: A person why stay endured due to a day have introduced a knife and a print.[clarification needed]

Tone is most frequently manifested on vowels, but in most tonal languages where voiced syllabic consonants occur they will bear tone as well. This is especially common with syllabic nasals, for example in many Bantu and Kru languages, but also occurs in Serbo-Croatian. It is also possible for lexically contrastive pitch (or tone) to span entire words or morphemes instead of manifesting on the syllable nucleus (vowels), which is the case in Punjabi.

Tones can interact in complex ways through a process known as tone sandhi.

Phonation

In a number of East Asian languages, tonal differences are closely intertwined with phonation differences. In Vietnamese, for example, thengã andsắc tones are both high-rising but the former is distinguished by having glottalization in the middle. Similarly, thenặng andhuyền tones are both low-falling, but thenặng tone is shorter and pronounced with creaky voice at the end, while thehuyền tone is longer and often has breathy voice. In some languages, such as Burmese, pitch and phonation are so closely intertwined that the two are combined in a single phonological system, where neither can be considered without the other. The distinctions of such systems are termed registers. The tone register here should not be confused with register tone described in the next section.

Phonation type

Gordon and Ladefoged established a continuum of phonation, where several types can be identified.

Relationship with tone

Kuang identified two types of phonation: pitch-dependent and pitch-independent. Contrast of tones has long been thought of as differences in pitch height. However, several studies pointed out that tone is actually multidimensional. Contour, duration, and phonation may all contribute to the differentiation of tones. Recent investigations using perceptual experiments seem to suggest phonation counts as a perceptual cue.

Tone and pitch accent

Many languages use tone in a more limited way. In Japanese, fewer than half of the words have a drop in pitch; words contrast according to which syllable this drop follows. Such minimal systems are sometimes called pitch accent since they are reminiscent of stress accent languages, which typically allow one principal stressed syllable per word. However, there is debate over the definition of pitch accent and whether a coherent definition is even possible.

Tone and intonation

Both lexical or grammatical tone and prosodic intonation are cued by changes in pitch, as well as sometimes by changes in phonation. Lexical tone coexists with intonation, with the lexical changes of pitch like waves superimposed on larger swells. For example, Luksaneeyanawin (1993) describes three intonational patterns in Thai: falling (with semantics of "finality, closedness, and definiteness"), rising ("non-finality, openness and non-definiteness") and "convoluted" (contrariness, conflict and emphasis). The phonetic realization of these intonational patterns superimposed on the five lexical tones of Thai (in citation form) are as follows:

Tone plus intonation in Thai
Falling
intonation
Rising
intonation
Convoluted
intonation
High level tone ˦˥˦ ˥ ˦˥˨
Mid level tone ˧˨ ˦ ˧˦˨
Low level tone ˨˩ ˧ ˧˧˦
Falling tone ˦˧˨, ˦˦˨ ˦˦˧, ˥˥˦ ˦˥˨
Rising tone ˩˩˦ ˧˧˦ ˨˩˦

With convoluted intonation, it appears that high and falling tone conflate, while the low tone with convoluted intonation has the same contour as rising tone with rising intonation.

Tonal polarity

Languages with simple tone systems or pitch accent may have one or two syllables specified for tone, with the rest of the word taking a default tone. Such languages differ in which tone is marked and which is the default. In Navajo, for example, syllables have a low tone by default, whereas marked syllables have high tone. In the related language Sekani, however, the default is high tone, and marked syllables have low tone. There are parallels with stress: English stressed syllables have a higher pitch than unstressed syllables, whereas in Russian, stressed syllables have a lower pitch[citation needed].

Register tones and contour tones

"High tone" redirects here. For the tones in telephony, see High tone (telephony). For the French band, see High Tone.
Main article: Contour tone

In many Bantu languages, tones are distinguished by their pitch level relative to each other. In multisyllable words, a single tone may be carried by the entire word rather than a different tone on each syllable. Often, grammatical information, such as past versus present, "I" versus "you", or positive versus negative, is conveyed solely by tone.

In the most widely spoken tonal language, Mandarin Chinese, tones are distinguished by their distinctive shape, known as contour, with each tone having a different internal pattern of rising and falling pitch. Many words, especially monosyllabic ones, are differentiated solely by tone. In a multisyllabic word, each syllable often carries its own tone. Unlike in Bantu systems, tone plays little role in the grammar of modern standard Chinese, though the tones descend from features in Old Chinese that had morphological significance (such as changing a verb to a noun or vice versa).

Most tonal languages have a combination of register and contour tones. Tone is typical of languages including Kra–Dai, Vietic, Sino-Tibetan, Afroasiatic, Khoisan, Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan languages. Most tonal languages combine both register and contour tones, such as Cantonese, which produces three varieties of contour tone at three different pitch levels, and the Omotic (Afroasiatic) language Bench, which employs five level tones and one or two rising tones across levels.

Most varieties of Chinese use contour tones, where the distinguishing feature of the tones are their shifts in pitch (that is, the pitch is a contour), such as rising, falling, dipping, or level. Most Bantu languages (except northwestern Bantu) on the other hand, have simpler tone systems usually with high, low and one or two contour tone (usually in long vowels). In such systems there is a default tone, usually low in a two-tone system or mid in a three-tone system, that is more common and less salient than other tones. There are also languages that combine relative-pitch and contour tones, such as many Kru languages and other Niger-Congo languages of West Africa.

Falling tones tend to fall further than rising tones rise; high–low tones are common, whereas low–high tones are quite rare. A language with contour tones will also generally have as many or more falling tones than rising tones. However, exceptions are not unheard of; Mpi, for example, has three level and three rising tones, but no falling tones.

Word tones and syllable tones

Another difference between tonal languages is whether the tones apply independently to each syllable or to the word as a whole. In Cantonese, Thai, and Kru languages, each syllable may have a tone, whereas in Shanghainese,[citation needed] Swedish, Norwegian and many Bantu languages, the contour of each tone operates at the word level. That is, a trisyllabic word in a three-tone syllable-tone language has many more tonal possibilities (3 × 3 × 3 = 27) than a monosyllabic word (3), but there is no such difference in a word-tone language. For example, Shanghainese has two contrastive (phonemic) tones no matter how many syllables are in a word.[citation needed] Many languages described as having pitch accent are word-tone languages.

Tone sandhi is an intermediate situation, as tones are carried by individual syllables, but affect each other so that they are not independent of each other. For example, a number of Mandarin Chinese suffixes and grammatical particles have what is called (when describing Mandarin Chinese) a "neutral" tone, which has no independent existence. If a syllable with a neutral tone is added to a syllable with a full tone, the pitch contour of the resulting word is entirely determined by that other syllable:

Realization of neutral tones in Mandarin Chinese
Tone in isolation Tone pattern with
added neutral tone
Example Pinyin English meaning
high˥ ˥꜋ 玻璃 bōli glass
rising˧˥ ˧˥꜊ 伯伯 bóbo elder uncle
dipping˨˩˦ ˨˩꜉ 喇叭 lǎba horn
falling˥˩ ˥˩꜌ 兔子 tùzi rabbit

After high level and high rising tones, the neutral syllable has an independent pitch that looks like a mid-register tone – the default tone in most register-tone languages. However, after a falling tone it takes on a low pitch; the contour tone remains on the first syllable, but the pitch of the second syllable matches where the contour leaves off. And after a low-dipping tone, the contour spreads to the second syllable: the contour remains the same (˨˩˦) whether the word has one syllable or two. In other words, the tone is now the property of the word, not the syllable. Shanghainese has taken this pattern to its extreme, as the pitches of all syllables are determined by the tone before them, so that only the tone of the initial syllable of a word is distinctive.

Lexical tones and grammatical tones

Lexical tones are used to distinguish lexical meanings. Grammatical tones, on the other hand, change the grammatical categories. To some authors, the term includes both inflectional and derivational morphology. Tian described a grammatical tone, the induced creaky tone, in Burmese.

Number of tones

Languages may distinguish up to five levels of pitch, though the Chori language of Nigeria is described as distinguishing six surface tone registers. Since tone contours may involve up to two shifts in pitch, there are theoretically 5 × 5 × 5 = 125 distinct tones for a language with five registers. However, the most that are actually used in a language is a tenth of that number.

Several Kam–Sui languages of southern China have nine contrastive tones, including contour tones. For example, the Kam language has 9 tones: 3 more-or-less fixed tones (high, mid and low); 4 unidirectional tones (high and low rising, high and low falling); and 2 bidirectional tones (dipping and peaking). This assumes that checked syllables are not counted as having additional tones, as they traditionally are in China. For example, in the traditional reckoning, the Kam language has 15 tones, but 6 occur only in syllables closed with the voiceless stop consonants/p/,/t/ or/k/ and the other 9 occur only in syllables not ending in one of these sounds.

Preliminary work on the Wobe language (part of the Wee continuum) of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, the Ticuna language of the Amazon and the Chatino languages of southern Mexico suggests that some dialects may distinguish as many as fourteen tones or more. The Guere language, Dan language and Mano language of Liberia and Ivory Coast have around 10 tones, give or take. The Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico have a huge number of tones as well. The most complex tonal systems are actually found in Africa and the Americas, not east Asia.

Tone terracing

Main article: Tone terracing

Tones are realized as pitch only in a relative sense. "High tone" and "low tone" are only meaningful relative to the speaker's vocal range and in comparing one syllable to the next, rather than as a contrast of absolute pitch such as one finds in music. As a result, when one combines tone with sentence prosody, the absolute pitch of a high tone at the end of a prosodic unit may be lower than that of a low tone at the beginning of the unit, because of the universal tendency (in both tonal and non-tonal languages) for pitch to decrease with time in a process called downdrift.

Tones may affect each other just as consonants and vowels do. In many register-tone languages, low tones may cause a downstep in following high or mid tones; the effect is such that even while the low tones remain at the lower end of the speaker's vocal range (which is itself descending due to downdrift), the high tones drop incrementally like steps in a stairway or terraced rice fields, until finally the tones merge and the system has to be reset. This effect is called tone terracing.

Sometimes a tone may remain as the sole realization of a grammatical particle after the original consonant and vowel disappear, so it can only be heard by its effect on other tones. It may cause downstep, or it may combine with other tones to form contours. These are called floating tones.

Tone sandhi

Main article: Tone sandhi

In many contour-tone languages, one tone may affect the shape of an adjacent tone. The affected tone may become something new, a tone that only occurs in such situations, or it may be changed into a different existing tone. This is called tone sandhi. In Mandarin Chinese, for example, a dipping tone between two other tones is reduced to a simple low tone, which otherwise does not occur in Mandarin Chinese, whereas if two dipping tones occur in a row, the first becomes a rising tone, indistinguishable from other rising tones in the language. For example, the words 很[xɤn˨˩˦] ('very') and 好[xaʊ˨˩˦] ('good') produce the phrase 很好[xɤn˧˥ xaʊ˨˩˦] ('very good'). The two transcriptions may be conflated with reversed tone letters as[xɤn˨˩˦꜔꜒xaʊ˨˩˦].

Right- and left-dominant sandhi

Tone sandhi in Sinitic languages can be classified with a left-dominant or right-dominant system. In a language of the right-dominant system, the right-most syllable of a word retains its citation tone (i.e., the tone in its isolation form). All the other syllables of the word must take their sandhi form. Taiwanese Southern Min is known for its complex sandhi system. Example: 鹹kiam5 'salty'; 酸sng1 'sour'; 甜tinn1 'sweet'; 鹹酸甜kiam7 sng7 tinn1 'candied fruit'. In this example, only the last syllable remains unchanged. Subscripted numbers represent the changed tone.

Tone change

Tone change must be distinguished from tone sandhi. Tone sandhi is a compulsory change that occurs when certain tones are juxtaposed. Tone change, however, is a morphologically conditioned alternation and is used as an inflectional or a derivational strategy. Lien indicated that causative verbs in modern Southern Min are expressed with tonal alternation, and that tonal alternation may come from earlier affixes. Examples: 長 tng5 'long' vs. tng2 'grow'; 斷 tng7 'break' vs. tng2 'cause to break'. Also, 毒 in Taiwanese Southern Min has two pronunciations: to̍k (entering tone) means 'poison' or 'poisonous', while thāu (departing tone) means 'to kill with poison'. The same usage can be found in Min, Yue, and Hakka.

Neutralisation

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In East Asia, tone is typically lexical. That is, tone is used to distinguish words which would otherwise be homonyms. This is characteristic of heavily tonal languages such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Hmong.

However, in many African languages, especially in the Niger–Congo family, tone can be both lexical and grammatical. In the Kru languages, a combination of these patterns is found: nouns tend to have complex tone systems but are not much affected by grammatical inflections, whereas verbs tend to have simple tone systems, which are inflected to indicate tense and mood, person, and polarity, so that tone may be the only distinguishing feature between "you went" and "I won't go".

In colloquial Yoruba, especially when spoken quickly, vowels may assimilate to each other, and consonants elide so much that much of the lexical and grammatical information is carried by tone.[citation needed] In languages of West Africa such as Yoruba, people may even communicate with so-called "talking drums", which are modulated to imitate the tones of the language, or by whistling the tones of speech.[citation needed]

Note that tonal languages are not distributed evenly across the same range as non-tonal languages. Instead, the majority of tone languages belong to the Niger-Congo, Sino-Tibetan and Vietic groups, which are then composed by a large majority of tone languages and dominate a single region. Only in limited locations (South Africa, New Guinea, Mexico, Brazil and a few others) are tone languages occurring as individual members or small clusters within a non-tone dominated area. In some locations, like Central America, it may represent no more than an incidental effect of which languages were included when one examines the distribution; for groups like Khoi-San in Southern Africa and Papuan languages, whole families of languages possess tonality but simply have relatively few members, and for some North American tone languages, multiple independent origins are suspected.

If generally considering only complex-tone vs. no-tone, it might be concluded that tone is almost always an ancient feature within a language family that is highly conserved among members. However, when considered in addition to "simple" tone systems that include only two tones, tone, as a whole, appears to be more labile, appearing several times within Indo-European languages, several times in American languages, and several times in Papuan families. That may indicate that rather than a trait unique to some language families, tone is a latent feature of most language families that may more easily arise and disappear as languages change over time.

A 2015 study by Caleb Everett argued that tonal languages are more common in hot and humid climates, which make them easier to pronounce, even when considering familial relationships. If the conclusions of Everett's work are sound, this is perhaps the first known case of influence of the environment on the structure of the languages spoken in it. The proposed relationship between climate and tone is not uncontroversial, and logical and statistical issues have been raised by various scholars.

Tone has long been viewed as merely a phonological system. It was not until recent years that tone was found to play a role in inflectional morphology. Palancar and Léonard (2016) provided an example with Tlatepuzco Chinantec (an Oto-Manguean language spoken in Southern Mexico), where tones are able to distinguish mood, person, and number:

Forms of 'bend' in Tlatepuzco Chinantec
1 SG 1 PL 2 3
Completive húʔ˩ húʔ˩˥ húʔ˩ húʔ˧
Incompletive húʔ˩˧ húʔ˩˧ húʔ˩˧ húʔ˧
Irrealis húʔ˩˥ húʔ˩˥ húʔ˩˥ húʔ˧

In Iau language (the most tonally complex Lakes Plain language, predominantly monosyllabic), nouns have an inherent tone (e.g. be˧ 'fire' but be˦˧ 'flower'), but verbs don't have any inherent tone. For verbs, a tone is used to mark aspect. The first work that mentioned this was published in 1986. Example paradigms:

Aspects in Iau
Tone Aspect ba 'come' tai 'moving s.t. toward' da 'locate s.t. inside'
tone 2 totality of action, punctual ba˦ 'came' tai˦ 'pulled' da˦ 'ate, put it in (stomach)'
tone 3 resultative durative ba˧ 'has come' tai˧ 'has been pulled off' da˧ 'has been loaded onto s.t.'
tone 21 totality of action, incomplete ba˦˥ 'might come' tai˦˥ 'might pull'
tone 43 resultative punctual ba˨˧ 'came to get' tai˨˧ 'land on s.t.' da˨˧ 'dip into water, wash s.t.'
tone 24 telic punctual ba˦˨ 'came to end' tai˦˨ 'fell to ground' da˦˨ 'eaten it all up'
tone 23 telic, incomplete ba˦˧ 'still coming' tai˦˧ 'still falling' da˦˧ 'still eating it up'
tone 34 totality of action, durative ba˧˨ 'be coming' tai˧˨ 'be pulling'
tone 243 telic durative ba˦˨˧ 'sticking to' tai˦˨˧ 'be falling'
tai˦˥–˧˨ 'pull on s.t., shake hands'
tai˦˥–˧ 'have pulled s.t., shook hands'

Tones are used to differentiate cases as well, as in Maasai language (a Nilo-Saharan language spoken in Kenya and Tanzania):

Case difference in Maasai
gloss Nominative Accusative
'head' èlʊ̀kʊ̀nyá èlʊ́kʊ́nyá
'rat' èndérònì èndèrónì

Certain varieties of Chinese are known to express meaning by means of tone change although further investigations are required. Examples from two Yue dialects spoken in Guangdong Province are shown below. In Taishan, tone change indicates the grammatical number of personal pronouns. In Zhongshan, perfective verbs are marked with tone change.

  • Taishan
ngwoi˧ 'I' (singular)
ngwoi˨ 'we' (plural)
  • Zhongshan
hy˨ 'go'
hy˧˥ 'gone' (perfective)

The following table compares the personal pronouns of Sixian dialect (a dialect of Taiwanese Hakka) with Zaiwa and Jingpho (both Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Yunnan and Burma). From this table, we find the distinction between nominative, genitive, and accusative is marked by tone change and sound alternation.

Comparison of personal pronouns
Sixian Zaiwa Jingpho
1 Nom ŋai˩ ŋo˥˩ ŋai˧
1 Gen ŋa˨˦ or ŋai˩ ke˥ ŋa˥ ŋjeʔ˥
1 Acc ŋai˩ ŋo˧˩ ŋai˧
2 Nom ŋ̍˩ naŋ˥˩ naŋ˧
2 Gen ŋia˨˦ or ŋ̍˩ ke˥ naŋ˥ naʔ˥
2 Acc ŋ̍˩ naŋ˧˩ naŋ˧
3 Nom ki˩ jaŋ˧˩ khji˧
3 Gen kia˨˦ or ki˩ ke˥ jaŋ˥˩ khjiʔ˥
3 Acc ki˩ jaŋ˧˩ khji˧

There are several approaches to notating tones in the description of a language. A fundamental difference is between phonemic and phonetic transcription.

A phonemic notation will typically lack any consideration of the actual phonetic values of the tones. Such notations are especially common when comparing dialects with wildly different phonetic realizations of what are historically the same set of tones. In Chinese, for example, the "four tones" may be assigned numbers, such as ① to ④ or – after the historical tone split that affected all Chinese languages to at least some extent – ① to ⑧ (with odd numbers for the yin tones and even numbers for the yang). In traditional Chinese notation, the equivalent diacritics ⟨꜀◌ ꜂◌ ◌꜄ ◌꜆⟩ are attached to the Chinese character, marking the same distinctions, plus underlined ⟨꜁◌ ꜃◌ ◌꜅ ◌꜇⟩ for the yang tones where a split has occurred. If further splits occurred in some language or dialect, the results may be numbered '4a' and '4b' or something similar. Among the Kradai languages, tones are typically assigned the letters A through D or, after a historical tone split similar to what occurred in Chinese, A1 to D1 and A2 to D2. (See Proto-Tai language.) With such a system, it can be seen which words in two languages have the same historical tone (say tone ③) even though they no longer sound anything alike.

Also phonemic are upstep and downstep, which are indicated by the IPA diacritics ⟨⟩ and ⟨⟩, respectively, or by the typographic substitutes ⟨⟩ and ⟨⟩, respectively. Upstep and downstep affect the tones within a language as it is being spoken, typically due to grammatical inflection or when certain tones are brought together. (For example, a high tone may be stepped down when it occurs after a low tone, compared to the pitch it would have after a mid tone or another high tone.)

Phonetic notation records the actual relative pitch of the tones. Since tones tend to vary over time periods as short as centuries, this means that the historical connections among the tones of two language varieties will generally be lost by such notation, even if they are dialects of the same language.

  • The easiest notation from a typographical perspective – but one that is internationally ambiguous – is a numbering system, with the pitch levels assigned digits and each tone transcribed as a digit (or as a sequence of digits if a contour tone). Such systems tend to be idiosyncratic (high tone may be assigned the digit 1, 3, or 5, for example) and have therefore not been adopted for the International Phonetic Alphabet. For instance, high tone is conventionally written with a 1 and low tone with a 4 or 5 when transcribing the Kru languages of Liberia, but with 1 for low and 5 for high for the Omotic languages of Ethiopia. The tone ⟨53⟩ in a Kru language is thus the same pitch contour as one written ⟨35⟩ in an Omotic language. Pitch value 1 may be distinguished from tone number 1 by doubling it or making it superscript or both.
  • For simple tone systems, a series of diacritics such as ⟨ó⟩ for high tone and ⟨ò⟩ for low tone may be practical. This has been adopted by the IPA, but is not easy to adapt to complex contour tone systems (see under Chinese below for one workaround). The five IPA diacritics for level tones are ⟨ő ó ō ò ȍ⟩, with doubled high and low diacritics for extra high and extra low (or 'top' and 'bottom'). The diacritics combine to form contour tones, of which ⟨ô ǒ o᷄ o᷅ o᷆ o᷇ o᷈ o᷉⟩ have Unicode font support (support for additional combinations is sparse). Sometimes, a non-IPA vertical diacritic is seen for a second, higher mid tone, ⟨⟩, so a language with four or six level tones may be transcribed ⟨ó o̍ ō ò⟩ or ⟨ő ó o̍ ō ò ȍ⟩. For the Chinantecan languages of Mexico, the diacritics ⟨◌ꜗ ◌ꜘ ◌ꜙ ◌ꜚ⟩ have been used, but they are a local convention not accepted by the IPA.
  • A retired IPA system, sometimes still encountered, traces the shape of the tone (the pitch trace) before the syllable, where a stress mark would go (e.g., ⟨ˆo ˇo ˉo ˊo ˋo ˗o ˴o ˍo ˎo ˏo ˬo⟩). For a more concrete example, take the Hanyu Pinyin syllable [sa] used in Standard Chinese, after applying the diacritics it becomes easier to identify more specific rising and falling tones:[ˆsa] (high peaking tone),[ˍsa] (low level tone), etc. It was used in combination with stress marks to indicate intonation as well, as in English[ˈgʊd ˌɑːftə`nuːn] (now transcribed[ˈgʊd ˌɑːftə↘nuːn]).
  • The most flexible system, based on the previous spacing diacritics but with the addition of a stem (like the staff of musical notation), is that of the IPA-adopted Chao tone letters, which are iconic schematics of the pitch trace of the tone in question. Because musical staff notation is international, there is no international ambiguity with the Chao/IPA tone letters: a line at the top of the staff is high tone, a line at the bottom is low tone, and the shape of the line is a schematic of the contour of the tone (as visible in a pitch trace). They are most commonly used for complex contour systems, such as those of the languages of Liberia and southern China.
The Chao tone letters have two variants. The left-stem letters, ⟨꜒ ꜓ ꜔ ꜕ ꜖⟩, are used for tone sandhi. These are especially important for the Min Chinese languages. For example, a word may be pronounced/ɕim˥˧/ in isolation, but in a compound the tone will shift to/ɕim˦mĩʔ˧˨/. This can be notated morphophonemically as ⟨//ɕim˥˧꜓mĩʔ˧˨//⟩, where the back-to-front tone letters simultaneously show the underlying tone and the value in this word. Using the local (and internationally ambiguous) non-IPA numbering system, the compound may be written ⟨//ɕim⁵³⁻⁴⁴ mĩʔ³²//⟩. Left-stem letters may also be combined to form contour tones.
The second Chao letter variant are the dotted tone letters ⟨꜈ ꜉ ꜊ ꜋ ꜌⟩, which are used to indicate the pitch of neutral tones. These are phonemically null, and may be indicated with the digit '0' in a numbering system, but take specific pitches depending on the preceding phonemic tone. When combined with tone sandhi, the left-stem dotted tone letters ⟨꜍ ꜎ ꜏ ꜐ ꜑⟩ are seen.
Conventions for five-pitch transcription
Name Top tone High tone Mid tone Low tone Bottom tone
IPA tone diacritic ◌̋ ◌́ ◌̄ ◌̀ ◌̏
IPA tone letter ◌˥ ◌˦ ◌˧ ◌˨ ◌˩
Neutral tone letter ◌꜈ ◌꜉ ◌꜊ ◌꜋ ◌꜌
Sandhi tone letter ◌꜒ ◌꜓ ◌꜔ ◌꜕ ◌꜖
Sandhi neutral tone letter ◌꜍ ◌꜎ ◌꜏ ◌꜐ ◌꜑
Name Falling tone High falling tone Low falling tone
IPA tone diacritic ◌̂ ◌᷇ ◌᷆


IPA tone letters
˥˩, ˥˨, ˥˧, ˥˦,
˦˩, ˦˨, ˦˧,
˧˩, ˧˨, ˨˩
◌˥˧, ◌˥˦, ◌˦˧, &c. ◌˧˩, ◌˧˨, ◌˨˩, &c.
Name Rising tone High rising tone Low rising tone
IPA tone diacritic ◌̌ ◌᷄ ◌᷅


IPA tone letters
˩˥, ˩˦, ˩˧, ˩˨,
˨˥, ˨˦, ˨˧,
˧˥, ˧˦, ˦˥
◌˧˥, ◌˦˥, ◌˧˦, &c. ◌˩˧, ◌˨˧, ◌˩˨, &c.
Name Dipping tone
(falling–rising)
Peaking tone
(rising–falling)
IPA tone diacritic ◌᷉ ◌᷈
IPA tone letters
(various)
  • ˨˩˨,˨˩˧,˨˩˦,˨˩˥,
    ˧˩˨,˧˩˧,˧˩˦,˧˩˥,
    ˧˨˧,˧˨˦,˧˨˥,
    ˦˩˨,˦˩˧,˦˩˦,˦˩˥,
    ˦˨˧,˦˨˦,˦˨˥,
    ˦˧˦,˦˧˥,
    ˥˩˨,˥˩˧,˥˩˦,˥˩˥,
    ˥˨˧,˥˨˦,˥˨˥,
    ˥˧˦,˥˧˥,
    ˥˦˥
(various)
  • ˦˥˦,˦˥˧,˦˥˨,˦˥˩,
    ˧˥˦,˧˥˧,˧˥˨,˧˥˩,
    ˧˦˧,˧˦˨,˧˦˩,
    ˨˥˦,˨˥˧,˨˥˨,˨˥˩,
    ˨˦˧,˨˦˨,˨˦˩,
    ˨˧˨,˨˧˩,
    ˩˥˦,˩˥˧,˩˥˨,˩˥˩,
    ˩˦˧,˩˦˨,˩˦˩,
    ˩˧˨,˩˧˩,
    ˩˨˩

An IPA/Chao tone letter will rarely be composed of more than three elements (which are sufficient for peaking and dipping tones). Occasionally, however, peaking–dipping and dipping–peaking tones, which require four elements – or even double-peaking and double-dipping tones, which require five – are encountered. This is usually only the case when prosody is superposed on lexical or grammatical tone, but a good computer font will allow an indefinite number of tone letters to be concatenated. The IPA diacritics placed over vowels and other letters have not been extended to this level of complexity.

Africa

In African linguistics (as well as in many African orthographies), a set of diacritics is usual to mark tone. The most common are a subset of the International Phonetic Alphabet:

High tone acute á
Mid tone macron ā
Low tone grave à

Minor variations are common. In many three-tone languages, it is usual to mark high and low tone as indicated above but to omit marking of the mid tone: (high), ma (mid), (low). Similarly, in two-tone languages, only one tone may be marked explicitly, usually the less common or more 'marked' tone (see markedness).

When digits are used, typically 1 is high and 5 is low, except in Omotic languages, where 1 is low and 5 or 6 is high. In languages with just two tones, 1 may be high and 2 low, etc.

Asia

In the Chinese tradition, digits are assigned to various tones (see tone number). For instance, Standard Mandarin Chinese, the official language of China, has four lexically contrastive tones, and the digits 1, 2, 3, and 4 are assigned to four tones. Syllables can sometimes be toneless and are described as having a neutral tone, typically indicated by omitting tone markings. Chinese varieties are traditionally described in terms of four tonal categories ping ('level'), shang ('rising'), qu ('exiting'), ru ('entering'), based on the traditional analysis of Middle Chinese (see Four tones); note that these are not at all the same as the four tones of modern standard Mandarin Chinese. Depending on the dialect, each of these categories may then be divided into two tones, typically called yin and yang. Typically, syllables carrying the ru tones are closed by voiceless stops in Chinese varieties that have such coda(s) so in such dialects, ru is not a tonal category in the sense used by Western linguistics but rather a category of syllable structures. Chinese phonologists perceived these checked syllables as having concomitant short tones, justifying them as a tonal category. In Middle Chinese, when the tonal categories were established, the shang and qu tones also had characteristic final obstruents with concomitant tonic differences whereas syllables bearing the ping tone ended in a simple sonorant. An alternative to using the Chinese category names is assigning to each category a digit ranging from 1 to 8, sometimes higher for some Southern Chinese dialects with additional tone splits. Syllables belonging to the same tone category differ drastically in actual phonetic tone across the varieties of Chinese even among dialects of the same group. For example, the yin ping tone is a high level tone in Beijing Mandarin Chinese but a low level tone in Tianjin Mandarin Chinese.

More iconic systems use tone numbers or an equivalent set of graphic pictograms known as "Chao tone letters." These divide the pitch into five levels, with the lowest being assigned the value 1 and the highest the value 5. (This is the opposite of equivalent systems in Africa and the Americas.) The variation in pitch of a tone contour is notated as a string of two or three numbers. For instance, the four Mandarin Chinese tones are transcribed as follows (the tone letters will not display properly without a compatible font installed):

Tones of Standard Chinese (Mandarin)
High tone 55 ˥ (Tone 1)
Mid rising tone 35 ˧˥ (Tone 2)
Low dipping tone 214 ˨˩˦ (Tone 3)
High falling tone 51 ˥˩ (Tone 4)

A mid-level tone would be indicated by /33/, a low level tone /11/, etc. The doubling of the number is commonly used with level tones to distinguish them from tone numbers; tone 3 in Mandarin Chinese, for example, is not mid /3/. However, it is not necessary with tone letters, so /33/ =/˧˧/ or simply/˧/. If a distinction is made, it may be that/˧/ is mid tone in a register system and/˧˧/ is mid level tone in a contour system, or/˧/ may be mid tone on a short syllable or a mid checked tone, while/˧˧/ is mid tone on a long syllable or a mid unchecked tone.

IPA diacritic notation is also sometimes seen for Chinese. One reason it is not more widespread is that only two contour tones, rising/ɔ̌/ and falling/ɔ̂/, are widely supported by IPA fonts while several Chinese varieties have more than one rising or falling tone. One common workaround is to retain standard IPA/ɔ̌/ and/ɔ̂/ for high-rising (e.g./˧˥/) and high-falling (e.g./˥˧/) tones and to use the subscript diacritics/ɔ̗/ and/ɔ̖/ for low-rising (e.g./˩˧/) and low-falling (e.g./˧˩/) tones.

North America

Several North American languages have tone, one of which is Cherokee, an Iroquoian language. Oklahoma Cherokee has six tones (1 low, 2 medium, 3 high, 4 very high, 5 rising and 6 falling). The Tanoan languages have tone as well. For instance, Kiowa has three tones (high, low, falling), while Jemez has four (high, mid, low, and falling).

In Mesoamericanist linguistics, /1/ stands for high tone and /5/ stands for low tone, except in Oto-Manguean languages for which /1/ may be low tone and /3/ high tone. It is also common to see acute accents for high tone and grave accents for low tone and combinations of these for contour tones. Several popular orthographies use ⟨j⟩ or ⟨h⟩ after a vowel to indicate low tone. The Southern Athabascan languages that include the Navajo and Apache languages are tonal, and are analyzed as having two tones: high and low. One variety of Hopi has developed tone, as has the Cheyenne language.

Tone orthographies

In Roman script orthographies, a number of approaches are used. Diacritics are common, as in pinyin, but they tend to be omitted. Thai uses a combination of redundant consonants and diacritics. Tone letters may also be used, for example in Hmong RPA and several minority languages in China. Tone may simply be ignored, as is possible even for highly tonal languages: for example, the Chinese navy has successfully used toneless pinyin in government telegraph communications for decades. Likewise, Chinese reporters abroad may file their stories in toneless pinyin. Dungan, a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Central Asia, has, since 1927, been written in orthographies that do not indicate tone. Ndjuka, in which tone is less important, ignores tone except for a negative marker. However, the reverse is also true: in the Congo, there have been complaints from readers that newspapers written in orthographies without tone marking are insufficiently legible.

Standard Central Thai has five tones–mid, low, falling, high and rising–often indicated respectively by the numbers zero, one, two, three and four. The Thai written script is an alphasyllabary, which specifies the tone unambiguously. Tone is indicated by an interaction of the initial consonant of a syllable, the vowel length, the final consonant (if present), and sometimes a tone mark. A particular tone mark may denote different tones depending on the initial consonant.

Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet and its six tones are marked by letters with diacritics above or below a certain vowel. Basic notation for Vietnamese tones are as follows:

Tones of Vietnamese
Name Contour Diacritic Example
ngang mid level,˧ not marked a
huyền low falling,˨˩ grave accent à
sắc high rising,˧˥ acute accent á
hỏi dipping,˧˩˧ hook above
ngã creaky rising,˧ˀ˦˥ tilde ã
nặng creaky falling,˨˩ˀ dot below

The Latin-based Hmong and Iu Mien alphabets use full letters for tones. In Hmong, one of the eight tones (the˧ tone) is left unwritten while the other seven are indicated by the letters b, m, d, j, v, s, g at the end of the syllable. Since Hmong has no phonemic syllable-final consonants, there is no ambiguity. That system enables Hmong speakers to type their language with an ordinary Latin-letter keyboard without having to resort to diacritics. In the Iu Mien, the letters v, c, h, x, z indicate tones but unlike Hmong, it also has final consonants written before the tone.

The Standard Zhuang and Zhuang languages used to use a unique set of six "tone letters" based on the shapes of numbers, but slightly modified, to depict what tone a syllable was in. This was replaced in 1982 with the use of normal letters in the same manner, like Hmong.

The syllabary of the Nuosu language depicts tone in a unique manner, having separate glyphs for each tone other than for the mid-rising tone, which is denoted by the addition of a diacritic. Take the difference between ꉬ nge [ŋɯ³³] , and ꉫ ngex [ŋɯ³⁴]. In romanisation, the letters t, x, and p are used to demarcate tone. As codas are forbidden in Nuosu there is no ambiguity.

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André-Georges Haudricourt established that Vietnamese tone originated in earlier consonantal contrasts and suggested similar mechanisms for Chinese. It is now widely held that Old Chinese did not have phonemically contrastive tone. The historical origin of tone is called tonogenesis, a term coined by James Matisoff.

Tone as an areal feature

Tone is sometimes an areal rather than a phylogenetic feature. That is to say, a language may acquire tones through bilingualism if influential neighbouring languages are tonal or if speakers of a tonal language shift to the language in question and bring their tones with them. The process is referred to as contact-induced tonogenesis by linguists. In other cases, tone may arise spontaneously and surprisingly fast: the dialect of Cherokee in Oklahoma has tone, but the dialect in North Carolina does not although they were separated only in 1838.

In world languages

Tone arose in the Athabascan languages at least twice, in a patchwork of two systems. In some languages, such as Navajo, syllables with glottalized consonants (including glottal stops) in the syllable coda developed low tones, whereas in others, such as Slavey, they developed high tones, so that the two tonal systems are almost mirror images of each other. Syllables without glottalized codas developed the opposite tone. For example, high tone in Navajo and low tone in Slavey are due to contrast with the tone triggered by the glottalization.

Other Athabascan languages, namely those in western Alaska (such as Koyukon) and the Pacific coast (such as Hupa), did not develop tone. Thus, the Proto-Athabascan word *tuː ('water') is toneless toː in Hupa, high-tone in Navajo, and low-tone in Slavey; while Proto-Athabascan *-ɢʊtʼ ('knee') is toneless -ɢotʼ in Hupa, low-tone -ɡòd in Navajo, and high-tone -ɡóʔ in Slavey. Kingston (2005) provides a phonetic explanation for the opposite development of tone based on the two different ways of producing glottalized consonants with either tense voice on the preceding vowel, which tends to produce a high F0, or creaky voice, which tends to produce a low F0. Languages with "stiff" glottalized consonants and tense voice developed high tone on the preceding vowel and those with "slack" glottalized consonants with creaky voice developed low tone.

The Bantu languages also have "mirror" tone systems in which the languages in the northwest corner of the Bantu area have the opposite tones of other Bantu languages.

Three Algonquian languages developed tone independently of one another and of neighboring languages: Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kickapoo. In Cheyenne, tone arose via vowel contraction; the long vowels of Proto-Algonquian contracted into high-pitched vowels in Cheyenne while the short vowels became low-pitched. In Kickapoo, a vowel with a following [h] acquired a low tone, and this tone later extended to all vowels followed by a fricative.

In Mohawk, a glottal stop can disappear in a combination of morphemes, leaving behind a long falling tone. Note that it has the reverse effect of the postulated rising tone in Cantonese or Middle Chinese, derived from a lost final glottal stop.

In Korean language, a 2013 study which compared voice recordings of Seoul speech from 1935 and 2005 found that in recent years, lenis consonants (ㅂㅈㄷㄱ), aspirated consonants (ㅍㅊㅌㅋ) and fortis consonants (ㅃㅉㄸㄲ) were shifting from a distinction via voice onset time to that of pitch change, and suggests that the modern Seoul dialect is currently undergoing tonogenesis. These sound shifts still show variations among different speakers, suggesting that the transition is still ongoing. Among 141 examined Seoul speakers, these pitch changes were originally initiated by females born in the 1950s, and has almost reached completion in the speech of those born in the 1990s.

Tonogenesis

Triggers of tonogenesis

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"There is tonogenetic potential in various series of phonemes: glottalized vs. plain consonants, unvoiced vs. voiced, aspirated vs. unaspirated, geminates vs. simple (...), and even among vowels". Very often, tone arises as an effect of the loss or merger of consonants. In a nontonal language, voiced consonants commonly cause following vowels to be pronounced at a lower pitch than other consonants. That is usually a minor phonetic detail of voicing. However, if consonant voicing is subsequently lost, that incidental pitch difference may be left over to carry the distinction that the voicing previously carried (a process called transphonologization) and thus becomes meaningful (phonemic).

This process happened in the Punjabi language: the Punjabi murmured (voiced aspirate) consonants have disappeared and left tone in their wake. If the murmured consonant was at the beginning of a word, it left behind a low tone; at the end, it left behind a high tone. If there was no such consonant, the pitch was unaffected; however, the unaffected words are limited in pitch and did not interfere with the low and high tones. That produced a tone of its own, mid tone. The historical connection is so regular that Punjabi is still written as if it had murmured consonants, and tone is not marked. The written consonants tell the reader which tone to use.

Similarly, final fricatives or other consonants may phonetically affect the pitch of preceding vowels, and if they then weaken to[h] and finally disappear completely, the difference in pitch, now a true difference in tone, carries on in their stead. This was the case with Chinese. Two of the three tones of Middle Chinese, the "rising" and the "departing" tones, arose as the Old Chinese final consonants/ʔ/ and/s/ → /h/ disappeared, while syllables that ended with neither of these consonants were interpreted as carrying the third tone, "even". Most varieties descending from Middle Chinese were further affected by a tone split in which each tone divided in two depending on whether the initial consonant was voiced. Vowels following a voiced consonant (depressor consonant) acquired a lower tone as the voicing lost its distinctiveness.

The same changes affected many other languages in the same area, and at around the same time (AD 1000–1500). The tone split, for example, also occurred in Thai and Vietnamese.

In general, voiced initial consonants lead to low tones while vowels after aspirated consonants acquire a high tone. When final consonants are lost, a glottal stop tends to leave a preceding vowel with a high or rising tone (although glottalized vowels tend to be low tone so if the glottal stop causes vowel glottalization, that will tend to leave behind a low vowel). A final fricative tends to leave a preceding vowel with a low or falling tone. Vowel phonation also frequently develops into tone, as can be seen in the case of Burmese.

Stages of tonogenesis

1. The table below is the process of tonogenesis in White Hmong, described by Martha Ratliff. The tone values described in the table are from Christina Esposito.

Tonogenesis in White Hmong
Atonal stage CV CVʔ CVh CVCvl
Tonogenesis CV level CV rising CV falling CVCvl atonal
Tone split A1 upper A2 lower B1 upper B2 lower C1 upper C2 lower D1 upper D2 lower
Current [pɔ˦˥] [pɔ˥˨] [pɔ˨˦] [pɔ˨] [pɔ˧] [pɔ̤˦˨] -- [pɔ̰˨˩]

2. The table below shows the Vietnamese tonogenesis. The tone values are taken from James Kirby.

Tonogenesis in Vietnamese
Atonal stage CV CVx > CVʔ CVs > CVh
Tonogenesis CV mid CV rising CV falling
Tone split A1 higher A2 lower B1 higher B2 lower C1 higher C2 lower
Current ngang/˦/ huyền/˨˩/ sắc/˨˦/ nặng/˨/ hỏi/˧˨/ ngã/˧˥/

3. The table below is the tonogenesis of Tai Dam (Black Tai). Displayed in the first row is the Proto-Southern Kra-Dai, as reconstructed by Norquest. Tone values are taken from Pittayaporn.

Tonogenesis in Tai Dam
Proto-SKD *∅ *-h *-ʔ *-ʔ͡C
Tonogenesis level rising falling
Tone split A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2
Current /˨/ /˥/ /˦˥/ /˦/ /˨˩ʔ/ /˧˩ʔ/ /˦˥/ /˦/

4. The table below shows the Chinese language tonogenesis.

Tonogenesis in Chinese
Atonal stage -∅, -N -s -p, -t, -k
Tonogenesis píng (level) shàng (rising) qù (departing) rù (entering)
Tone split A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2

The tone values are listed below:

Tone Value of Modern Varieties of Chinese
Class SC TSH THH XMM FZM SZW SXW
A1 /˥/ /˨˦/ /˥˧/ /˥/ /˦/ /˦/ /˦˩/
A2 /˧˥/ /˩/ /˥/ /˨˦/ /˥˨/ /˩˧/ /˩˥/
B1 /˨˩˦/ /˧˩/ /˨˦/ /˥˩/ /˧˩/ /˥˨/ /˥/
B2 /˨/
C1 /˥˩/ /˥˥/ /˩/ /˩/ /˨˩˧/ /˦˩˨/ /˦/
C2 /˧/ /˧/ /˨˦˨/ /˧˩/ /˧˩/
D1 /˥, ˧˥
˨˩˦, ˥˩/
/˨/ /˥/ /˧˨/ /˨˧/ /˥/ /˥/
D2 /˥/ /˨/ /˥/ /˦/ /˨/ /˧˨/
  1. SC= Standard Chinese (Putonghua)
  2. TSH= Taiwanese Sixian Hakka
  3. THH= Taiwanese Hailu Hakka
  4. XMM= Xiamen Min (Amoy)
  5. FZM= Fuzhou Min
  6. SZW= Suzhou Wu
  7. SXW= Shaoxing Wu

The tones across all varieties (or dialects) of Chinese correspond to each other, although they may not correspond to each other perfectly. Moreover, listed above are citation tones, but in actual conversations, obligatory sandhi rules will reshape them. The Sixian and Hailu Hakka in Taiwan are famous for their near-regular and opposite pattern (of pitch height). Both will be compared with Standard Chinese below.

Word Hailu Hakka Standard Chinese Sixian Hakka
老人家 'elder people' loLR nginHL gaHF laoLF renMR jiaHL
(→ laoLFrenjia)
loMF nginLL gaLR
碗公 'bowl' vonLR gungHF wanLF gongHL vonMF gungLR
車站 'bus stop' chaHF zhamLL cheHL zhanHF caLR zamHL
自行車 'bicycle' ciiML hangHL chaHF ziHF xingMR cheHL ciiHL hangLL caLR
  1. H: high; M: mid; L: low;
  2. L: level; R: rising; F: falling

5. The table below shows Punjabi tonogenesis in bisyllabic words. Unlike the above four examples, Punjab was not under the east Asian tone sprachbund, instead belonging to a separate one in its own area of Punjab. As well, unlike the above languages, which developed tone from syllable endings, Punjab developed tone from its voiced aspirated stops losing their aspiration. Tone does occur in monosyllabic words as well, but are not discussed in the chart below.

Tonogenesis in Punjabi
This table is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
Atonal stage C(V)VC̬ʰ(V)V C̬ʰ(V)VC(V)V C(V)VC(V)V
Tonogenesis C̬ʰ → V́C̬V̀

/ V_V

C̬ʰVC(V)V C̬ʰVVC(V)V -
C̬ʰ → T̥V, R̬V / #_V C̬ʰVV → T̥VV̀, R̬VV̀ / #_VV
Result C(V)V́C̬(V)V̀ T̥VC(V)V R̬VC(V)V T̥VV̀C(V)V R̬VV̀C(V)V C(V)VC(V)V

(C = any consonant, T = non-retroflex stop, R = retroflex stop; C̬ = voiced, C̥ = unvoiced; Cʰ = aspirated; V = Neutral tone, V́ = Rising tone, V̀ = Falling tone)

Africa

Most languages of Sub-Saharan Africa are members of the Niger-Congo family, which is predominantly tonal; notable exceptions are Swahili (in the southeast), most languages spoken in the Senegambia (among them Wolof, Serer and Cangin languages), and Fulani. The Afroasiatic languages include both tonal (Chadic, Omotic) and nontonal (Semitic, Berber, Egyptian, and most Cushitic) branches. All three Khoisan language families—Khoe, Kx'a and Tuu—are tonal. All languages of the Nilotic language family are tonal.

Asia

Numerous tonal languages are widely spoken in China and Mainland Southeast Asia. Sino-Tibetan languages (including Meitei-Lon, Burmese, Mog and most varieties of Chinese; though some, such as Shanghainese, are only marginally tonal) and Kra–Dai languages (including Thai and Lao) are mostly tonal. The Hmong–Mien languages are some of the most tonal languages in the world, with as many as twelve phonemically distinct tones. Austroasiatic (such as Khmer and Mon) and Austronesian (such as Malay, Javanese, Tagalog, and Maori) languages are mostly non tonal with the rare exception of Austroasiatic languages like Vietnamese, and Austronesian languages like Cèmuhî and Tsat. Tones in Vietnamese and Tsat may result from Chinese influence on both languages. There were tones in Middle Korean. Other languages represented in the region, such as Mongolian, Uyghur, and Japanese belong to language families that do not contain any tonality as defined here. In South Asia tonal languages are rare, but some Indo-Aryan languages have tonality, including Punjabi and Dogri, as well as the Eastern Bengali lects.

America

A large number of North, South and Central American languages are tonal, including many of the Athabaskan languages of Alaska and the American Southwest (including Navajo), and the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico. Among the Mayan languages, which are mostly non-tonal, Yucatec (with the largest number of speakers), Uspantek, and one dialect of Tzotzil have developed tone systems. The Ticuna language of the western Amazon is perhaps the most tonal language of the Americas. Other languages of the western Amazon have fairly simple tone systems as well. However, although tone systems have been recorded for many American languages, little theoretical work has been completed for the characterization of their tone systems. In different cases, Oto-Manguean tone languages in Mexico have been found to possess tone systems similar to both Asian and African tone languages.

Summary

Languages that are tonal include:

In some cases it is difficult to determine whether a language is tonal. For example, the Ket language has been described as having up to eight tones by some investigators, as having four tones by others, but by some as having no tone at all. In cases such as these, the classification of a language as tonal may depend on the researcher's interpretation of what tone is. For instance, the Burmese language has phonetic tone, but each of its three tones is accompanied by a distinctive phonation (creaky, murmured or plain vowels). It could be argued either that the tone is incidental to the phonation, in which case Burmese would not be phonemically tonal, or that the phonation is incidental to the tone, in which case it would be considered tonal. Something similar appears to be the case with Ket.

The 19th-century constructed language Solresol can consist of only tone, but unlike all natural tonal languages, Solresol's tone is absolute, rather than relative, and no tone sandhi occurs.

  1. Tones change over time, but may retain their original spelling. The Thai spelling of the final word in the tongue-twister, ⟨ไหม⟩, indicates a rising tone, but the word is now commonly pronounced with a high tone. Therefore a new spelling,มั้ย, is occasionally seen in informal writing.
  2. In three-pitch transcription, ⟨◌́⟩ is equivalent to ⟨◌˥⟩ etc., and ⟨◌̀⟩ to ⟨◌˩⟩ etc.
  3. These extended Chao tone letters have not been accepted by the IPA, but are often used in conjunction with the official letters.
  4. Specifically, words that had the Middle Chinese ping (level) tone are now distributed over tones 1 and 2 in Mandarin Chinese, while the Middle Chinese shang (rising) and qu (exiting) tones have become Mandarin Chinese tones 3 and 4, respectively. Words with the former ru (entering) tone, meanwhile, have been distributed over all four tones.
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  75. Iksop Lee; S. Robert Ramsey (2000). The Korean Language. SUNY Press. pp. 315–. ISBN 978-0-7914-4832-8.
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  78. Ager, Simon (ed.). "Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ/پنجابی)". Omniglot. Retrieved2015-01-30.
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  80. Sen, Geeti (1997). Crossing Boundaries. Orient Blackswan. p. 132. ISBN 978-81-250-1341-9. Possibly, Punjabi is the only major South Asian language that has this kind of tonal character. There does seem to have been some speculation among scholars about the possible origin of Punjabi's tone-language character but without any final and convincing answer.
  81. Pal, Animesh K. (1965). "Phonemes of a Dacca Dialect of Eastern Bengali and the Importance of Tone". Journal of the Asiatic Society. VII: 44–45. The tonal element in Panjabi as well as in Eastern Bengali has been noticed in respect of various new ways of treating the voiced aspirates and 'h'.
  82. Masica, Colin P. (1991), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge University Press, p. 102, Glottalization is often connected with tone and in the East Bengali cases seem to be related to the evolution of tone from the voiced aspirates.
  83. Yip (2002), pp. 212–214.
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Tone linguistics Article Talk Language Watch Edit Not to be confused with Intonation linguistics This article needs additional citations for verification Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources Unsourced material may be challenged and removed Find sources Tone linguistics news newspapers books scholar JSTOR October 2019 Learn how and when to remove this template message Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning that is to distinguish or to inflect words 1 All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information and to convey emphasis contrast and other such features in what is called intonation but not all languages use tones to distinguish words or their inflections analogously to consonants and vowels Languages that have this feature are called tonal languages the distinctive tone patterns of such a language are sometimes called tonemes 2 by analogy with phoneme Tonal languages are common in East and Southeast Asia Africa the Americas and the Pacific 1 Six Tones of Vietnamese The four main tones of Standard Mandarin pronounced with the syllable ma source source This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA For an introductory guide on IPA symbols see Help IPA For the distinction between and see IPA Brackets and transcription delimiters Most of the tonal marks in languages usually come in the form of diacritics like the Vietnamese tonal marks which use five diacritics including a grave accent A an acute accent A a tilde A a hook above the letter Ả and a dot below the vowel Ạ and the flat accent without a diacritic Vietnamese Latin alphabet with tone marks was developed before the invention of Mandarin Chinese pinyin romanization Mandarin Chinese uses four diacritical marks for the four tones of pinyin signifying the pitch of the syllable The first tone is a high level tone ma symbolized by a macron the second tone is a rising tone ma symbolized by an acute accent the third tone is a slight fall followed by a rising tone mǎ symbolized by a caron hacek and the fourth tone is a falling tone ma symbolized by a grave accent There is also a neutral tone in Chinese which signifies that the syllable is pronounced lightly but the pitch depends chiefly on the tone of the preceding syllable Tonal languages are different from pitch accent languages in that tonal languages can have each syllable with an independent tone whilst pitch accent languages may have one syllable in a word or morpheme that is more prominent than the others Contents 1 Mechanics 1 1 Phonation 1 1 1 Phonation type 1 1 2 Relationship with tone 1 2 Tone and pitch accent 1 3 Tone and intonation 1 4 Tonal polarity 2 Types 2 1 Register tones and contour tones 2 2 Word tones and syllable tones 2 3 Lexical tones and grammatical tones 2 4 Number of tones 3 Tonal change 3 1 Tone terracing 3 2 Tone sandhi 3 2 1 Right and left dominant sandhi 3 3 Tone change 3 4 Neutralisation 4 Uses of tone 5 Tone and inflection 6 Phonetic notation 6 1 Africa 6 2 Asia 6 3 North America 6 4 Tone orthographies 7 Origin and development 7 1 Tone as an areal feature 7 1 1 In world languages 7 2 Tonogenesis 7 2 1 Triggers of tonogenesis 7 2 2 Stages of tonogenesis 8 List of tonal languages 8 1 Africa 8 2 Asia 8 3 America 8 4 Summary 9 See also 10 Notes 11 References 12 Bibliography 13 External linksMechanics EditMost languages use pitch as intonation to convey prosody and pragmatics but this does not make them tonal languages In tonal languages each syllable has an inherent pitch contour and thus minimal pairs or larger minimal sets exist between syllables with the same segmental features consonants and vowels but different tones Vietnamese by far has the most heavily studied tone system as well as amongst its various dialects Below is a table of the six Vietnamese tones and their corresponding tone accent or diacritics Vietnamese tones ngang flat tone huyền deep tone or falling tone A sắc sharp or rising tone A nặng heavy or down tone Ạ hỏi asking tone Ả nga tumbling tone A Tone name Tone ID Vni telex Viqr Description Chao Tone Contour Diacritic Examplengang flat A1 default mid level 33 ahuyền deep A2 2 f low falling breathy 21 or 31 asắc sharp B1 1 s mid rising tense 35 anặng heavy B2 5 j mid falling glottalized heavy ˀ ʔ 3ˀ2ʔ or ˀ ʔ 3ˀ1ʔ ạhỏi asking C1 3 r mid falling rising emphasis 313 or 323 or 31 ảnga tumbling C2 4 x mid rising glottalized ˀ 3ˀ5 or 4ˀ5 a Mandarin Chinese which has five tones transcribed by letters with diacritics over vowels The tone contours of Standard Chinese In the convention for Chinese 1 is low and 5 is high The corresponding tone letters are A high level tone a pinyin a A tone starting with mid pitch and rising to a high pitch ǎ pinyin a A low tone with a slight fall if there is no following syllable it may start with a dip then rise to a high pitch a pinyin ǎ A short sharply falling tone starting high and falling to the bottom of the speaker s vocal range a pinyin a A neutral tone with no specific contour used on weak syllables its pitch depends chiefly on the tone of the preceding syllable These tones combine with a syllable such as ma to produce different words A minimal set based on ma are in pinyin transcription ma 媽 妈 mother ma 麻 麻 hemp mǎ 馬 马 horse ma 罵 骂 scold ma 嗎 吗 an interrogative particle These may be combined into the rather contrived sentence Simplified 妈妈骂马的麻吗 Traditional 媽媽罵馬的麻嗎 Pinyin Mama ma mǎde ma ma IPA mama ma mate mǎ ma Translation Is mom scolding the horse s hemp A well known tongue twister in Standard Thai is ihmihmihmmy IPA mǎi mai mai mai Translation Does new silk burn a A Vietnamese tongue twister Bấy nay bay bay bảy bẫy bậy IPA ɓʌ i nai ɓʌi ɓʌ i ɓa i ɓʌ ˀi ɓʌ ˀi Translation All along you ve set up the seven traps incorrectly A Cantonese tongue twister 一人因一日引一刃一印而忍 Jyutping jat1 jan4 jan1 jat1 jat6 jan5 jat1 jan6 jat1 jan3 ji4 jan2 IPA Translation A person why stay endured due to a day have introduced a knife and a print clarification needed Tone is most frequently manifested on vowels but in most tonal languages where voiced syllabic consonants occur they will bear tone as well This is especially common with syllabic nasals for example in many Bantu and Kru languages but also occurs in Serbo Croatian It is also possible for lexically contrastive pitch or tone to span entire words or morphemes instead of manifesting on the syllable nucleus vowels which is the case in Punjabi 3 Tones can interact in complex ways through a process known as tone sandhi Phonation Edit In a number of East Asian languages tonal differences are closely intertwined with phonation differences In Vietnamese for example the nga and sắc tones are both high rising but the former is distinguished by having glottalization in the middle Similarly the nặng and huyền tones are both low falling but the nặng tone is shorter and pronounced with creaky voice at the end while the huyền tone is longer and often has breathy voice In some languages such as Burmese pitch and phonation are so closely intertwined that the two are combined in a single phonological system where neither can be considered without the other The distinctions of such systems are termed registers The tone register here should not be confused with register tone described in the next section Phonation type Edit Gordon and Ladefoged established a continuum of phonation where several types can be identified 4 Relationship with tone Edit Kuang identified two types of phonation pitch dependent and pitch independent 5 Contrast of tones has long been thought of as differences in pitch height However several studies pointed out that tone is actually multidimensional Contour duration and phonation may all contribute to the differentiation of tones Recent investigations using perceptual experiments seem to suggest phonation counts as a perceptual cue 5 6 7 Tone and pitch accent Edit Many languages use tone in a more limited way In Japanese fewer than half of the words have a drop in pitch words contrast according to which syllable this drop follows Such minimal systems are sometimes called pitch accent since they are reminiscent of stress accent languages which typically allow one principal stressed syllable per word However there is debate over the definition of pitch accent and whether a coherent definition is even possible 8 Tone and intonation Edit Both lexical or grammatical tone and prosodic intonation are cued by changes in pitch as well as sometimes by changes in phonation Lexical tone coexists with intonation with the lexical changes of pitch like waves superimposed on larger swells For example Luksaneeyanawin 1993 describes three intonational patterns in Thai falling with semantics of finality closedness and definiteness rising non finality openness and non definiteness and convoluted contrariness conflict and emphasis The phonetic realization of these intonational patterns superimposed on the five lexical tones of Thai in citation form are as follows 9 Tone plus intonation in Thai Falling intonation Rising intonation Convoluted intonationHigh level tone Mid level tone Low level tone Falling tone Rising tone With convoluted intonation it appears that high and falling tone conflate while the low tone with convoluted intonation has the same contour as rising tone with rising intonation Tonal polarity Edit Languages with simple tone systems or pitch accent may have one or two syllables specified for tone with the rest of the word taking a default tone Such languages differ in which tone is marked and which is the default In Navajo for example syllables have a low tone by default whereas marked syllables have high tone In the related language Sekani however the default is high tone and marked syllables have low tone 10 There are parallels with stress English stressed syllables have a higher pitch than unstressed syllables whereas in Russian stressed syllables have a lower pitch citation needed Types EditRegister tones and contour tones Edit High tone redirects here For the tones in telephony see High tone telephony For the French band see High Tone Main article Contour tone In many Bantu languages tones are distinguished by their pitch level relative to each other In multisyllable words a single tone may be carried by the entire word rather than a different tone on each syllable Often grammatical information such as past versus present I versus you or positive versus negative is conveyed solely by tone In the most widely spoken tonal language Mandarin Chinese tones are distinguished by their distinctive shape known as contour with each tone having a different internal pattern of rising and falling pitch 11 Many words especially monosyllabic ones are differentiated solely by tone In a multisyllabic word each syllable often carries its own tone Unlike in Bantu systems tone plays little role in the grammar of modern standard Chinese though the tones descend from features in Old Chinese that had morphological significance such as changing a verb to a noun or vice versa Most tonal languages have a combination of register and contour tones Tone is typical of languages including Kra Dai Vietic Sino Tibetan Afroasiatic Khoisan Niger Congo and Nilo Saharan languages Most tonal languages combine both register and contour tones such as Cantonese which produces three varieties of contour tone at three different pitch levels 12 and the Omotic Afroasiatic language Bench which employs five level tones and one or two rising tones across levels 13 Most varieties of Chinese use contour tones where the distinguishing feature of the tones are their shifts in pitch that is the pitch is a contour such as rising falling dipping or level Most Bantu languages except northwestern Bantu on the other hand have simpler tone systems usually with high low and one or two contour tone usually in long vowels In such systems there is a default tone usually low in a two tone system or mid in a three tone system that is more common and less salient than other tones There are also languages that combine relative pitch and contour tones such as many Kru languages and other Niger Congo languages of West Africa Falling tones tend to fall further than rising tones rise high low tones are common whereas low high tones are quite rare A language with contour tones will also generally have as many or more falling tones than rising tones However exceptions are not unheard of Mpi for example has three level and three rising tones but no falling tones Word tones and syllable tones Edit Another difference between tonal languages is whether the tones apply independently to each syllable or to the word as a whole In Cantonese Thai and Kru languages each syllable may have a tone whereas in Shanghainese citation needed Swedish Norwegian and many Bantu languages the contour of each tone operates at the word level That is a trisyllabic word in a three tone syllable tone language has many more tonal possibilities 3 3 3 27 than a monosyllabic word 3 but there is no such difference in a word tone language For example Shanghainese has two contrastive phonemic tones no matter how many syllables are in a word citation needed Many languages described as having pitch accent are word tone languages Tone sandhi is an intermediate situation as tones are carried by individual syllables but affect each other so that they are not independent of each other For example a number of Mandarin Chinese suffixes and grammatical particles have what is called when describing Mandarin Chinese a neutral tone which has no independent existence If a syllable with a neutral tone is added to a syllable with a full tone the pitch contour of the resulting word is entirely determined by that other syllable Realization of neutral tones in Mandarin Chinese Tone in isolation Tone pattern with added neutral tone Example Pinyin English meaninghigh 玻璃 bōli glassrising 伯伯 bobo elder uncledipping 喇叭 lǎba hornfalling 兔子 tuzi rabbit After high level and high rising tones the neutral syllable has an independent pitch that looks like a mid register tone the default tone in most register tone languages However after a falling tone it takes on a low pitch the contour tone remains on the first syllable but the pitch of the second syllable matches where the contour leaves off And after a low dipping tone the contour spreads to the second syllable the contour remains the same whether the word has one syllable or two In other words the tone is now the property of the word not the syllable Shanghainese has taken this pattern to its extreme as the pitches of all syllables are determined by the tone before them so that only the tone of the initial syllable of a word is distinctive Lexical tones and grammatical tones Edit Lexical tones are used to distinguish lexical meanings Grammatical tones on the other hand change the grammatical categories 14 To some authors the term includes both inflectional and derivational morphology 15 Tian described a grammatical tone the induced creaky tone in Burmese 16 Number of tones Edit Languages may distinguish up to five levels of pitch though the Chori language of Nigeria is described as distinguishing six surface tone registers 17 Since tone contours may involve up to two shifts in pitch there are theoretically 5 5 5 125 distinct tones for a language with five registers However the most that are actually used in a language is a tenth of that number Several Kam Sui languages of southern China have nine contrastive tones including contour tones For example the Kam language has 9 tones 3 more or less fixed tones high mid and low 4 unidirectional tones high and low rising high and low falling and 2 bidirectional tones dipping and peaking This assumes that checked syllables are not counted as having additional tones as they traditionally are in China For example in the traditional reckoning the Kam language has 15 tones but 6 occur only in syllables closed with the voiceless stop consonants p t or k and the other 9 occur only in syllables not ending in one of these sounds Preliminary work on the Wobe language part of the Wee continuum of Liberia and Cote d Ivoire the Ticuna language of the Amazon and the Chatino languages of southern Mexico suggests that some dialects may distinguish as many as fourteen tones or more The Guere language Dan language and Mano language of Liberia and Ivory Coast have around 10 tones give or take The Oto Manguean languages of Mexico have a huge number of tones as well The most complex tonal systems are actually found in Africa and the Americas not east Asia Tonal change EditTone terracing Edit Main article Tone terracing Tones are realized as pitch only in a relative sense High tone and low tone are only meaningful relative to the speaker s vocal range and in comparing one syllable to the next rather than as a contrast of absolute pitch such as one finds in music As a result when one combines tone with sentence prosody the absolute pitch of a high tone at the end of a prosodic unit may be lower than that of a low tone at the beginning of the unit because of the universal tendency in both tonal and non tonal languages for pitch to decrease with time in a process called downdrift Tones may affect each other just as consonants and vowels do In many register tone languages low tones may cause a downstep in following high or mid tones the effect is such that even while the low tones remain at the lower end of the speaker s vocal range which is itself descending due to downdrift the high tones drop incrementally like steps in a stairway or terraced rice fields until finally the tones merge and the system has to be reset This effect is called tone terracing Sometimes a tone may remain as the sole realization of a grammatical particle after the original consonant and vowel disappear so it can only be heard by its effect on other tones It may cause downstep or it may combine with other tones to form contours These are called floating tones Tone sandhi Edit Main article Tone sandhi In many contour tone languages one tone may affect the shape of an adjacent tone The affected tone may become something new a tone that only occurs in such situations or it may be changed into a different existing tone This is called tone sandhi In Mandarin Chinese for example a dipping tone between two other tones is reduced to a simple low tone which otherwise does not occur in Mandarin Chinese whereas if two dipping tones occur in a row the first becomes a rising tone indistinguishable from other rising tones in the language For example the words 很 xɤn very and 好 xaʊ good produce the phrase 很好 xɤn xaʊ very good The two transcriptions may be conflated with reversed tone letters as xɤn xaʊ Right and left dominant sandhi Edit Tone sandhi in Sinitic languages can be classified with a left dominant or right dominant system In a language of the right dominant system the right most syllable of a word retains its citation tone i e the tone in its isolation form All the other syllables of the word must take their sandhi form 18 19 Taiwanese Southern Min is known for its complex sandhi system Example 鹹kiam5 salty 酸sng1 sour 甜tinn1 sweet 鹹酸甜kiam7 sng7 tinn1 candied fruit In this example only the last syllable remains unchanged Subscripted numbers represent the changed tone Tone change Edit Tone change must be distinguished from tone sandhi Tone sandhi is a compulsory change that occurs when certain tones are juxtaposed Tone change however is a morphologically conditioned alternation and is used as an inflectional or a derivational strategy 20 Lien indicated that causative verbs in modern Southern Min are expressed with tonal alternation and that tonal alternation may come from earlier affixes Examples 長 tng5 long vs tng2 grow 斷 tng7 break vs tng2 cause to break 21 Also 毒 in Taiwanese Southern Min has two pronunciations to k entering tone means poison or poisonous while thau departing tone means to kill with poison 22 The same usage can be found in Min Yue and Hakka 23 Neutralisation Edit This section is empty You can help by adding to it September 2020 Uses of tone EditIn East Asia tone is typically lexical That is tone is used to distinguish words which would otherwise be homonyms This is characteristic of heavily tonal languages such as Chinese Vietnamese Thai and Hmong However in many African languages especially in the Niger Congo family tone can be both lexical and grammatical In the Kru languages a combination of these patterns is found nouns tend to have complex tone systems but are not much affected by grammatical inflections whereas verbs tend to have simple tone systems which are inflected to indicate tense and mood person and polarity so that tone may be the only distinguishing feature between you went and I won t go In colloquial Yoruba especially when spoken quickly vowels may assimilate to each other and consonants elide so much that much of the lexical and grammatical information is carried by tone citation needed In languages of West Africa such as Yoruba people may even communicate with so called talking drums which are modulated to imitate the tones of the language or by whistling the tones of speech citation needed Note that tonal languages are not distributed evenly across the same range as non tonal languages 24 Instead the majority of tone languages belong to the Niger Congo Sino Tibetan and Vietic groups which are then composed by a large majority of tone languages and dominate a single region Only in limited locations South Africa New Guinea Mexico Brazil and a few others are tone languages occurring as individual members or small clusters within a non tone dominated area In some locations like Central America it may represent no more than an incidental effect of which languages were included when one examines the distribution for groups like Khoi San in Southern Africa and Papuan languages whole families of languages possess tonality but simply have relatively few members and for some North American tone languages multiple independent origins are suspected If generally considering only complex tone vs no tone it might be concluded that tone is almost always an ancient feature within a language family that is highly conserved among members However when considered in addition to simple tone systems that include only two tones tone as a whole appears to be more labile appearing several times within Indo European languages several times in American languages and several times in Papuan families 24 That may indicate that rather than a trait unique to some language families tone is a latent feature of most language families that may more easily arise and disappear as languages change over time 25 A 2015 study by Caleb Everett argued that tonal languages are more common in hot and humid climates which make them easier to pronounce even when considering familial relationships If the conclusions of Everett s work are sound this is perhaps the first known case of influence of the environment on the structure of the languages spoken in it 26 27 The proposed relationship between climate and tone is not uncontroversial and logical and statistical issues have been raised by various scholars 28 29 30 Tone and inflection EditTone has long been viewed as merely a phonological system It was not until recent years that tone was found to play a role in inflectional morphology Palancar and Leonard 2016 31 provided an example with Tlatepuzco Chinantec an Oto Manguean language spoken in Southern Mexico where tones are able to distinguish mood person and number Forms of bend in Tlatepuzco Chinantec 1 SG 1 PL 2 3Completive huʔ huʔ huʔ huʔ Incompletive huʔ huʔ huʔ huʔ Irrealis huʔ huʔ huʔ huʔ In Iau language the most tonally complex Lakes Plain language predominantly monosyllabic nouns have an inherent tone e g be fire but be flower but verbs don t have any inherent tone For verbs a tone is used to mark aspect The first work that mentioned this was published in 1986 32 Example paradigms 33 Aspects in Iau Tone Aspect ba come tai moving s t toward da locate s t inside tone 2 totality of action punctual ba came tai pulled da ate put it in stomach tone 3 resultative durative ba has come tai has been pulled off da has been loaded onto s t tone 21 totality of action incomplete ba might come tai might pull tone 43 resultative punctual ba came to get tai land on s t da dip into water wash s t tone 24 telic punctual ba came to end tai fell to ground da eaten it all up tone 23 telic incomplete ba still coming tai still falling da still eating it up tone 34 totality of action durative ba be coming tai be pulling tone 243 telic durative ba sticking to tai be falling tai pull on s t shake hands tai have pulled s t shook hands Tones are used to differentiate cases as well as in Maasai language a Nilo Saharan language spoken in Kenya and Tanzania 34 Case difference in Maasai gloss Nominative Accusative head elʊ kʊ nya elʊ kʊ nya rat enderoni enderoni Certain varieties of Chinese are known to express meaning by means of tone change although further investigations are required Examples from two Yue dialects spoken in Guangdong Province are shown below 20 In Taishan tone change indicates the grammatical number of personal pronouns In Zhongshan perfective verbs are marked with tone change Taishanngwoi I singular ngwoi we plural Zhongshanhy go hy gone perfective The following table compares the personal pronouns of Sixian dialect a dialect of Taiwanese Hakka 35 with Zaiwa and Jingpho 36 both Tibeto Burman languages spoken in Yunnan and Burma From this table we find the distinction between nominative genitive and accusative is marked by tone change and sound alternation Comparison of personal pronouns Sixian Zaiwa Jingpho1 Nom ŋai ŋo ŋai 1 Gen ŋa or ŋai ke ŋa ŋjeʔ 1 Acc ŋai ŋo ŋai 2 Nom ŋ naŋ naŋ 2 Gen ŋia or ŋ ke naŋ naʔ 2 Acc ŋ naŋ naŋ 3 Nom ki jaŋ khji 3 Gen kia or ki ke jaŋ khjiʔ 3 Acc ki jaŋ khji Phonetic notation EditSee also Phonetic transcription and Tone letter There are several approaches to notating tones in the description of a language A fundamental difference is between phonemic and phonetic transcription A phonemic notation will typically lack any consideration of the actual phonetic values of the tones Such notations are especially common when comparing dialects with wildly different phonetic realizations of what are historically the same set of tones In Chinese for example the four tones may be assigned numbers such as to or after the historical tone split that affected all Chinese languages to at least some extent to with odd numbers for the yin tones and even numbers for the yang In traditional Chinese notation the equivalent diacritics are attached to the Chinese character marking the same distinctions plus underlined for the yang tones where a split has occurred If further splits occurred in some language or dialect the results may be numbered 4a and 4b or something similar Among the Kradai languages tones are typically assigned the letters A through D or after a historical tone split similar to what occurred in Chinese A1 to D1 and A2 to D2 See Proto Tai language With such a system it can be seen which words in two languages have the same historical tone say tone even though they no longer sound anything alike Also phonemic are upstep and downstep which are indicated by the IPA diacritics ꜛ and ꜜ respectively or by the typographic substitutes ꜞ and ꜝ respectively Upstep and downstep affect the tones within a language as it is being spoken typically due to grammatical inflection or when certain tones are brought together For example a high tone may be stepped down when it occurs after a low tone compared to the pitch it would have after a mid tone or another high tone Phonetic notation records the actual relative pitch of the tones Since tones tend to vary over time periods as short as centuries this means that the historical connections among the tones of two language varieties will generally be lost by such notation even if they are dialects of the same language The easiest notation from a typographical perspective but one that is internationally ambiguous is a numbering system with the pitch levels assigned digits and each tone transcribed as a digit or as a sequence of digits if a contour tone Such systems tend to be idiosyncratic high tone may be assigned the digit 1 3 or 5 for example and have therefore not been adopted for the International Phonetic Alphabet For instance high tone is conventionally written with a 1 and low tone with a 4 or 5 when transcribing the Kru languages of Liberia but with 1 for low and 5 for high for the Omotic languages of Ethiopia The tone 53 in a Kru language is thus the same pitch contour as one written 35 in an Omotic language Pitch value 1 may be distinguished from tone number 1 by doubling it or making it superscript or both For simple tone systems a series of diacritics such as o for high tone and o for low tone may be practical This has been adopted by the IPA but is not easy to adapt to complex contour tone systems see under Chinese below for one workaround The five IPA diacritics for level tones are o o ō o ȍ with doubled high and low diacritics for extra high and extra low or top and bottom The diacritics combine to form contour tones of which o ǒ o o o o o o have Unicode font support support for additional combinations is sparse Sometimes a non IPA vertical diacritic is seen for a second higher mid tone o so a language with four or six level tones may be transcribed o o ō o or o o o ō o ȍ For the Chinantecan languages of Mexico the diacritics ꜗ ꜘ ꜙ ꜚ have been used but they are a local convention not accepted by the IPA A retired IPA system sometimes still encountered 37 traces the shape of the tone the pitch trace before the syllable where a stress mark would go e g ˆo ˇo ˉo ˊo ˋo o o ˍo ˎo ˏo ˬo For a more concrete example take the Hanyu Pinyin syllable sa used in Standard Chinese after applying the diacritics it becomes easier to identify more specific rising and falling tones ˆsa high peaking tone ˍsa low level tone etc It was used in combination with stress marks to indicate intonation as well as in English ˈgʊd ˌɑːfte nuːn now transcribed ˈgʊd ˌɑːfte nuːn The most flexible system based on the previous spacing diacritics but with the addition of a stem like the staff of musical notation is that of the IPA adopted Chao tone letters which are iconic schematics of the pitch trace of the tone in question Because musical staff notation is international there is no international ambiguity with the Chao IPA tone letters a line at the top of the staff is high tone a line at the bottom is low tone and the shape of the line is a schematic of the contour of the tone as visible in a pitch trace They are most commonly used for complex contour systems such as those of the languages of Liberia and southern China The Chao tone letters have two variants The left stem letters are used for tone sandhi These are especially important for the Min Chinese languages For example a word may be pronounced ɕim in isolation but in a compound the tone will shift to ɕim mĩʔ This can be notated morphophonemically as ɕim mĩʔ where the back to front tone letters simultaneously show the underlying tone and the value in this word Using the local and internationally ambiguous non IPA numbering system the compound may be written ɕim mĩʔ Left stem letters may also be combined to form contour tones The second Chao letter variant are the dotted tone letters which are used to indicate the pitch of neutral tones These are phonemically null and may be indicated with the digit 0 in a numbering system but take specific pitches depending on the preceding phonemic tone When combined with tone sandhi the left stem dotted tone letters are seen Conventions for five pitch transcription b Name Top tone High tone Mid tone Low tone Bottom toneIPA tone diacritic IPA tone letter Neutral tone letter c Sandhi tone letter c Sandhi neutral tone letter c Name Falling tone High falling tone Low falling toneIPA tone diacritic IPA tone letters amp c amp c Name Rising tone High rising tone Low rising toneIPA tone diacritic IPA tone letters amp c amp c Name Dipping tone falling rising Peaking tone rising falling IPA tone diacritic IPA tone letters various various An IPA Chao tone letter will rarely be composed of more than three elements which are sufficient for peaking and dipping tones Occasionally however peaking dipping and dipping peaking tones which require four elements or even double peaking and double dipping tones which require five are encountered This is usually only the case when prosody is superposed on lexical or grammatical tone but a good computer font will allow an indefinite number of tone letters to be concatenated The IPA diacritics placed over vowels and other letters have not been extended to this level of complexity Africa Edit In African linguistics as well as in many African orthographies a set of diacritics is usual to mark tone The most common are a subset of the International Phonetic Alphabet High tone acute aMid tone macron aLow tone grave a Minor variations are common In many three tone languages it is usual to mark high and low tone as indicated above but to omit marking of the mid tone ma high ma mid ma low Similarly in two tone languages only one tone may be marked explicitly usually the less common or more marked tone see markedness When digits are used typically 1 is high and 5 is low except in Omotic languages where 1 is low and 5 or 6 is high In languages with just two tones 1 may be high and 2 low etc Asia Edit In the Chinese tradition digits are assigned to various tones see tone number For instance Standard Mandarin Chinese the official language of China has four lexically contrastive tones and the digits 1 2 3 and 4 are assigned to four tones Syllables can sometimes be toneless and are described as having a neutral tone typically indicated by omitting tone markings Chinese varieties are traditionally described in terms of four tonal categories ping level shang rising qu exiting ru entering based on the traditional analysis of Middle Chinese see Four tones note that these are not at all the same as the four tones of modern standard Mandarin Chinese d Depending on the dialect each of these categories may then be divided into two tones typically called yin and yang Typically syllables carrying the ru tones are closed by voiceless stops in Chinese varieties that have such coda s so in such dialects ru is not a tonal category in the sense used by Western linguistics but rather a category of syllable structures Chinese phonologists perceived these checked syllables as having concomitant short tones justifying them as a tonal category In Middle Chinese when the tonal categories were established the shang and qu tones also had characteristic final obstruents with concomitant tonic differences whereas syllables bearing the ping tone ended in a simple sonorant An alternative to using the Chinese category names is assigning to each category a digit ranging from 1 to 8 sometimes higher for some Southern Chinese dialects with additional tone splits Syllables belonging to the same tone category differ drastically in actual phonetic tone across the varieties of Chinese even among dialects of the same group For example the yin ping tone is a high level tone in Beijing Mandarin Chinese but a low level tone in Tianjin Mandarin Chinese More iconic systems use tone numbers or an equivalent set of graphic pictograms known as Chao tone letters These divide the pitch into five levels with the lowest being assigned the value 1 and the highest the value 5 This is the opposite of equivalent systems in Africa and the Americas The variation in pitch of a tone contour is notated as a string of two or three numbers For instance the four Mandarin Chinese tones are transcribed as follows the tone letters will not display properly without a compatible font installed Tones of Standard Chinese Mandarin High tone 55 Tone 1 Mid rising tone 35 Tone 2 Low dipping tone 214 Tone 3 High falling tone 51 Tone 4 A mid level tone would be indicated by 33 a low level tone 11 etc The doubling of the number is commonly used with level tones to distinguish them from tone numbers tone 3 in Mandarin Chinese for example is not mid 3 However it is not necessary with tone letters so 33 or simply If a distinction is made it may be that is mid tone in a register system and is mid level tone in a contour system or may be mid tone on a short syllable or a mid checked tone while is mid tone on a long syllable or a mid unchecked tone IPA diacritic notation is also sometimes seen for Chinese One reason it is not more widespread is that only two contour tones rising ɔ and falling ɔ are widely supported by IPA fonts while several Chinese varieties have more than one rising or falling tone One common workaround is to retain standard IPA ɔ and ɔ for high rising e g and high falling e g tones and to use the subscript diacritics ɔ and ɔ for low rising e g and low falling e g tones North America Edit Several North American languages have tone one of which is Cherokee an Iroquoian language Oklahoma Cherokee has six tones 1 low 2 medium 3 high 4 very high 5 rising and 6 falling 39 The Tanoan languages have tone as well For instance Kiowa has three tones high low falling while Jemez has four high mid low and falling In Mesoamericanist linguistics 1 stands for high tone and 5 stands for low tone except in Oto Manguean languages for which 1 may be low tone and 3 high tone It is also common to see acute accents for high tone and grave accents for low tone and combinations of these for contour tones Several popular orthographies use j or h after a vowel to indicate low tone The Southern Athabascan languages that include the Navajo and Apache languages are tonal and are analyzed as having two tones high and low One variety of Hopi has developed tone as has the Cheyenne language Tone orthographies Edit In Roman script orthographies a number of approaches are used Diacritics are common as in pinyin but they tend to be omitted 40 Thai uses a combination of redundant consonants and diacritics Tone letters may also be used for example in Hmong RPA and several minority languages in China Tone may simply be ignored as is possible even for highly tonal languages for example the Chinese navy has successfully used toneless pinyin in government telegraph communications for decades Likewise Chinese reporters abroad may file their stories in toneless pinyin Dungan a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Central Asia has since 1927 been written in orthographies that do not indicate tone 40 Ndjuka in which tone is less important ignores tone except for a negative marker However the reverse is also true in the Congo there have been complaints from readers that newspapers written in orthographies without tone marking are insufficiently legible Standard Central Thai has five tones mid low falling high and rising often indicated respectively by the numbers zero one two three and four The Thai written script is an alphasyllabary which specifies the tone unambiguously Tone is indicated by an interaction of the initial consonant of a syllable the vowel length the final consonant if present and sometimes a tone mark A particular tone mark may denote different tones depending on the initial consonant Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet and its six tones are marked by letters with diacritics above or below a certain vowel Basic notation for Vietnamese tones are as follows Tones of Vietnamese Name Contour Diacritic Examplengang mid level not marked ahuyền low falling grave accent asắc high rising acute accent ahỏi dipping hook above ảnga creaky rising ˀ tilde anặng creaky falling ˀ dot below ạ The Latin based Hmong and Iu Mien alphabets use full letters for tones In Hmong one of the eight tones the tone is left unwritten while the other seven are indicated by the letters b m d j v s g at the end of the syllable Since Hmong has no phonemic syllable final consonants there is no ambiguity That system enables Hmong speakers to type their language with an ordinary Latin letter keyboard without having to resort to diacritics In the Iu Mien the letters v c h x z indicate tones but unlike Hmong it also has final consonants written before the tone The Standard Zhuang and Zhuang languages used to use a unique set of six tone letters based on the shapes of numbers but slightly modified to depict what tone a syllable was in This was replaced in 1982 with the use of normal letters in the same manner like Hmong The syllabary of the Nuosu language depicts tone in a unique manner having separate glyphs for each tone other than for the mid rising tone which is denoted by the addition of a diacritic Take the difference between ꉬ nge ŋɯ and ꉫ ngex ŋɯ In romanisation the letters t x and p are used to demarcate tone As codas are forbidden in Nuosu there is no ambiguity Origin and development EditThis section needs additional citations for verification Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources Unsourced material may be challenged and removed March 2017 Learn how and when to remove this template message Andre Georges Haudricourt established that Vietnamese tone originated in earlier consonantal contrasts and suggested similar mechanisms for Chinese 41 It is now widely held that Old Chinese did not have phonemically contrastive tone 42 The historical origin of tone is called tonogenesis a term coined by James Matisoff Tone as an areal feature Edit Tone is sometimes an areal rather than a phylogenetic feature That is to say a language may acquire tones through bilingualism if influential neighbouring languages are tonal or if speakers of a tonal language shift to the language in question and bring their tones with them The process is referred to as contact induced tonogenesis by linguists 43 In other cases tone may arise spontaneously and surprisingly fast the dialect of Cherokee in Oklahoma has tone but the dialect in North Carolina does not although they were separated only in 1838 In world languages Edit Tone arose in the Athabascan languages at least twice in a patchwork of two systems In some languages such as Navajo syllables with glottalized consonants including glottal stops in the syllable coda developed low tones whereas in others such as Slavey they developed high tones so that the two tonal systems are almost mirror images of each other Syllables without glottalized codas developed the opposite tone For example high tone in Navajo and low tone in Slavey are due to contrast with the tone triggered by the glottalization Other Athabascan languages namely those in western Alaska such as Koyukon and the Pacific coast such as Hupa did not develop tone Thus the Proto Athabascan word tuː water is toneless toː in Hupa high tone to in Navajo and low tone tu in Slavey while Proto Athabascan ɢʊtʼ knee is toneless ɢotʼ in Hupa low tone ɡod in Navajo and high tone ɡoʔ in Slavey Kingston 2005 provides a phonetic explanation for the opposite development of tone based on the two different ways of producing glottalized consonants with either tense voice on the preceding vowel which tends to produce a high F0 or creaky voice which tends to produce a low F0 Languages with stiff glottalized consonants and tense voice developed high tone on the preceding vowel and those with slack glottalized consonants with creaky voice developed low tone The Bantu languages also have mirror tone systems in which the languages in the northwest corner of the Bantu area have the opposite tones of other Bantu languages Three Algonquian languages developed tone independently of one another and of neighboring languages Cheyenne Arapaho and Kickapoo In Cheyenne tone arose via vowel contraction the long vowels of Proto Algonquian contracted into high pitched vowels in Cheyenne while the short vowels became low pitched In Kickapoo a vowel with a following h acquired a low tone and this tone later extended to all vowels followed by a fricative In Mohawk a glottal stop can disappear in a combination of morphemes leaving behind a long falling tone Note that it has the reverse effect of the postulated rising tone in Cantonese or Middle Chinese derived from a lost final glottal stop In Korean language a 2013 study which compared voice recordings of Seoul speech from 1935 and 2005 found that in recent years lenis consonants ㅂㅈㄷㄱ aspirated consonants ㅍㅊㅌㅋ and fortis consonants ㅃㅉㄸㄲ were shifting from a distinction via voice onset time to that of pitch change and suggests that the modern Seoul dialect is currently undergoing tonogenesis 44 These sound shifts still show variations among different speakers suggesting that the transition is still ongoing 45 Among 141 examined Seoul speakers these pitch changes were originally initiated by females born in the 1950s and has almost reached completion in the speech of those born in the 1990s 46 Tonogenesis Edit Triggers of tonogenesis Edit This section needs additional citations for verification Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources Unsourced material may be challenged and removed July 2020 Learn how and when to remove this template message There is tonogenetic potential in various series of phonemes glottalized vs plain consonants unvoiced vs voiced aspirated vs unaspirated geminates vs simple and even among vowels 47 Very often tone arises as an effect of the loss or merger of consonants In a nontonal language voiced consonants commonly cause following vowels to be pronounced at a lower pitch than other consonants That is usually a minor phonetic detail of voicing However if consonant voicing is subsequently lost that incidental pitch difference may be left over to carry the distinction that the voicing previously carried a process called transphonologization and thus becomes meaningful phonemic 48 This process happened in the Punjabi language the Punjabi murmured voiced aspirate consonants have disappeared and left tone in their wake If the murmured consonant was at the beginning of a word it left behind a low tone at the end it left behind a high tone If there was no such consonant the pitch was unaffected however the unaffected words are limited in pitch and did not interfere with the low and high tones That produced a tone of its own mid tone The historical connection is so regular that Punjabi is still written as if it had murmured consonants and tone is not marked The written consonants tell the reader which tone to use 49 Similarly final fricatives or other consonants may phonetically affect the pitch of preceding vowels and if they then weaken to h and finally disappear completely the difference in pitch now a true difference in tone carries on in their stead 50 This was the case with Chinese Two of the three tones of Middle Chinese the rising and the departing tones arose as the Old Chinese final consonants ʔ and s h disappeared while syllables that ended with neither of these consonants were interpreted as carrying the third tone even Most varieties descending from Middle Chinese were further affected by a tone split in which each tone divided in two depending on whether the initial consonant was voiced Vowels following a voiced consonant depressor consonant acquired a lower tone as the voicing lost its distinctiveness 51 The same changes affected many other languages in the same area and at around the same time AD 1000 1500 The tone split for example also occurred in Thai and Vietnamese In general voiced initial consonants lead to low tones while vowels after aspirated consonants acquire a high tone When final consonants are lost a glottal stop tends to leave a preceding vowel with a high or rising tone although glottalized vowels tend to be low tone so if the glottal stop causes vowel glottalization that will tend to leave behind a low vowel A final fricative tends to leave a preceding vowel with a low or falling tone Vowel phonation also frequently develops into tone as can be seen in the case of Burmese Stages of tonogenesis Edit 1 The table below is the process of tonogenesis in White Hmong described by Martha Ratliff 52 53 The tone values described in the table are from Christina Esposito 54 55 Tonogenesis in White Hmong Atonal stage CV CVʔ CVh CVCvlTonogenesis CV level CV rising CV falling CVCvl atonalTone split A1 upper A2 lower B1 upper B2 lower C1 upper C2 lower D1 upper D2 lowerCurrent pɔ pɔ pɔ pɔ pɔ pɔ pɔ 2 The table below shows the Vietnamese tonogenesis 56 57 58 The tone values are taken from James Kirby 59 60 Tonogenesis in Vietnamese Atonal stage CV CVx gt CVʔ CVs gt CVhTonogenesis CV mid CV rising CV fallingTone split A1 higher A2 lower B1 higher B2 lower C1 higher C2 lowerCurrent ngang huyền sắc nặng hỏi nga 3 The table below is the tonogenesis of Tai Dam Black Tai Displayed in the first row is the Proto Southern Kra Dai as reconstructed by Norquest 61 Tone values are taken from Pittayaporn 62 63 Tonogenesis in Tai Dam Proto SKD h ʔ ʔ CTonogenesis level rising fallingTone split A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2Current ʔ ʔ 4 The table below shows the Chinese language tonogenesis 64 65 Tonogenesis in Chinese Atonal stage N ʔ s p t kTonogenesis ping level shang rising qu departing ru entering Tone split A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2 The tone values are listed below Tone Value of Modern Varieties of Chinese Class SC 66 TSH 67 THH 67 XMM 68 FZM 68 SZW 66 SXW 66 A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2 SC Standard Chinese Putonghua TSH Taiwanese Sixian Hakka THH Taiwanese Hailu Hakka XMM Xiamen Min Amoy FZM Fuzhou Min SZW Suzhou Wu SXW Shaoxing Wu The tones across all varieties or dialects of Chinese correspond to each other although they may not correspond to each other perfectly Moreover listed above are citation tones but in actual conversations obligatory sandhi rules will reshape them The Sixian and Hailu Hakka in Taiwan are famous for their near regular and opposite pattern of pitch height Both will be compared with Standard Chinese below Word Hailu Hakka Standard Chinese Sixian Hakka老人家 elder people loLR nginHL gaHF laoLF renMR jiaHL laoLFrenjia loMF nginLL gaLR碗公 bowl vonLR gungHF wanLF gongHL vonMF gungLR車站 bus stop chaHF zhamLL cheHL zhanHF caLR zamHL自行車 bicycle ciiML hangHL chaHF ziHF xingMR cheHL ciiHL hangLL caLRH high M mid L low L level R rising F falling 5 The table below shows Punjabi tonogenesis in bisyllabic words Unlike the above four examples Punjab was not under the east Asian tone sprachbund instead belonging to a separate one in its own area of Punjab As well unlike the above languages which developed tone from syllable endings Punjab developed tone from its voiced aspirated stops losing their aspiration 69 Tone does occur in monosyllabic words as well but are not discussed in the chart below Tonogenesis in PunjabiThis table is incomplete you can help by expanding it Atonal stage C V VC ʰ V V C ʰ V VC V V C V VC V VTonogenesis C ʰ V C V V V C ʰVC V V C ʰVVC V V C ʰ T V R V V C ʰVV T VV R VV VVResult C V V C V V T VC V V R VC V V T VV C V V R VV C V V C V VC V V C any consonant T non retroflex stop R retroflex stop C voiced C unvoiced Cʰ aspirated V Neutral tone V Rising tone V Falling tone List of tonal languages EditAfrica Edit Most languages of Sub Saharan Africa are members of the Niger Congo family which is predominantly tonal notable exceptions are Swahili in the southeast most languages spoken in the Senegambia among them Wolof Serer and Cangin languages and Fulani The Afroasiatic languages include both tonal Chadic Omotic and nontonal Semitic Berber Egyptian and most Cushitic branches 70 All three Khoisan language families Khoe Kx a and Tuu are tonal All languages of the Nilotic language family are tonal Asia Edit Numerous tonal languages are widely spoken in China and Mainland Southeast Asia Sino Tibetan languages including Meitei Lon Burmese Mog and most varieties of Chinese though some such as Shanghainese are only marginally tonal 71 and Kra Dai languages including Thai and Lao are mostly tonal The Hmong Mien languages are some of the most tonal languages in the world with as many as twelve phonemically distinct tones Austroasiatic such as Khmer and Mon and Austronesian such as Malay Javanese Tagalog and Maori languages are mostly non tonal with the rare exception of Austroasiatic languages like Vietnamese and Austronesian languages like Cemuhi and Tsat 72 Tones in Vietnamese 73 and Tsat may result from Chinese influence on both languages There were tones in Middle Korean 74 75 76 Other languages represented in the region such as Mongolian Uyghur and Japanese belong to language families that do not contain any tonality as defined here In South Asia tonal languages are rare but some Indo Aryan languages have tonality including Punjabi and Dogri 77 78 79 80 as well as the Eastern Bengali lects 81 82 America Edit A large number of North South and Central American languages are tonal including many of the Athabaskan languages of Alaska and the American Southwest including Navajo 10 and the Oto Manguean languages of Mexico Among the Mayan languages which are mostly non tonal Yucatec with the largest number of speakers Uspantek and one dialect of Tzotzil have developed tone systems The Ticuna language of the western Amazon is perhaps the most tonal language of the Americas Other languages of the western Amazon have fairly simple tone systems as well However although tone systems have been recorded for many American languages little theoretical work has been completed for the characterization of their tone systems In different cases Oto Manguean tone languages in Mexico have been found to possess tone systems similar to both Asian and African tone languages 83 Summary Edit Languages that are tonal include Over 50 of the Sino Tibetan languages All Sinitic languages most prominently the Chinese languages some Tibetic languages including the standard languages of Tibet and Bhutan and Burmese In the Austroasiatic family Vietnamese and other members of the Vietic languages family are tonal Other branches of this family such as Mon Khmer and the Munda languages are entirely non tonal Some of the Malayo Polynesian branch of Austronesian languages in New Caledonia such as Paici and Cemuhi and New Guinea such as Mor Ma ya and Matbat plus some of the Chamic languages such as Tsat in Hainan are tonal The entire Kra Dai family spoken mainly in China Vietnam Thailand and Laos and including Thai and Lao is tonal The entire Hmong Mien family is highly tonal Many Afroasiatic languages in the Chadic and Omotic branches have tone systems including Hausa The vast majority of Niger Congo languages such as Ewe Igbo Lingala Maninka Yoruba and the Zulu have tone systems The Kru languages and Southern Mande languages have the most complex Notable non tonal Niger Congo languages are Swahili Fula and Wolof All Nilotic languages such as the Dinka language the Maa languages the Luo languages and Kalenjin languages have tone systems All Khoisan languages in southern Africa have tone systems some languages like Sandawe have tone systems like that of Cantonese Slightly more than half of the Athabaskan languages such as Navajo have tone systems languages in California and Oregon and a few in Alaska excluded The Athabaskan tone languages fall into two mirror image groups That is a word which has a high tone in one language will have a cognate with a low tone in another and vice versa Iroquoian languages like Mohawk commonly have tone the Cherokee language has the most extensive tonal inventory with six tones of which four are contours 39 Here the correlation between contour tone and simple syllable structures is clearly shown Cherokee phonotactics permit only syllables of the structure s C V All Oto Manguean languages are tonal In some cases as with Mixtec tone system variations between dialects are sufficiently great to cause mutual unintelligibility The Ticuna language of the western Amazon is strongly tonal Various Arawakan languages have relatively basic tone systems Many languages of New Guinea like Siane possess register tone systems Some Indo European languages notably Swedish Norwegian Latvian and Serbo Croatian as well as others possess what is termed pitch accent where only the stressed syllable of a word can have different contour tones these are not always considered to be cases of tone language Some European based creole languages such as Saramaccan and Papiamento have tone from their African substratum languages In some cases it is difficult to determine whether a language is tonal For example the Ket language has been described as having up to eight tones by some investigators as having four tones by others but by some as having no tone at all In cases such as these the classification of a language as tonal may depend on the researcher s interpretation of what tone is For instance the Burmese language has phonetic tone but each of its three tones is accompanied by a distinctive phonation creaky murmured or plain vowels It could be argued either that the tone is incidental to the phonation in which case Burmese would not be phonemically tonal or that the phonation is incidental to the tone in which case it would be considered tonal Something similar appears to be the case with Ket The 19th century constructed language Solresol can consist of only tone but unlike all natural tonal languages Solresol s tone is absolute rather than relative and no tone sandhi occurs See also EditMeeussen s rule Tone letter Tone name Tone number Tone pattern Musical language Lion Eating Poet in the Stone DenNotes Edit Tones change over time but may retain their original spelling The Thai spelling of the final word in the tongue twister ihm indicates a rising tone but the word is now commonly pronounced with a high tone Therefore a new spelling my is occasionally seen in informal writing In three pitch transcription is equivalent to etc and to etc 38 a b c These extended Chao tone letters have not been accepted by the IPA but are often used in conjunction with the official letters Specifically words that had the Middle Chinese ping level tone are now distributed over tones 1 and 2 in Mandarin Chinese while the Middle Chinese shang rising and qu exiting tones have become Mandarin Chinese tones 3 and 4 respectively Words with the former ru entering tone meanwhile have been distributed over all four tones References Edit a b Yip 2002 pp 1 3 17 18 R L Trask A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology Routledge 2004 Entry for toneme Singh Chander Shekhar 2004 Punjabi Prosody The Old Tradition and The New Paradigm Sri Lanka Polgasowita Sikuru Prakasakayo pp 70 82 Gordon Matthew amp Ladefoged Peter 2001 Phonation types A cross linguistic overview Journal of Phonetics 29 383 406 doi 10 006 jpho 2001 0147 a b Kuang J J 2013 Phonation in Tonal Contrasts Doctoral dissertation University of California Los Angeles Xu X Y Liu X F T J H amp Che H 2012 Pitch and Phonation Type Perception in Wenzhou Dialect Tone In The Third International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages TAL 2012 Yu K M amp Lam H W 2011 The role of creaky voice in Cantonese tonal perception The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 136 3 1320 doi 10 1121 1 4887462 Hyman 2009 Laver 1994 Principles of Phonetics pp 477 478 a b Kingston 2005 Yip 2002 pp 178 184 Yip 2002 pp 174 178 Wedeking Karl 1985 Why Bench Ethiopia has five level tones today Studia Linguistica Diachronica et Sinchronica Berlin Mouton de Gruyter pp 881 902 SIL International Grammatical Tone SIL Glossary of Linguistic Terms Retrieved 30 May 2019 Hyman Larry M 2016 Lexical vs Grammatical Tone Sorting out the Differences In The Fifth International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages TAL 2016 Tian Mimi 2018 Anatomy of a grammatical tone Linguistics of the Tibeto Burman Area 41 2 192 218 doi 10 1075 ltba 18007 tia Odden 2020 p 37 Zhang Jie 2007 A directional asymmetry in Chinese tone sandhi systems Journal of East Asian Linguistics 16 4 259 302 doi 10 1007 s10831 007 9016 2 Rose Phil 2016 Complexities of tonal realisation in a right dominant Chinese Wu dialect Disyllabic tone sandhi in a speaker form Wencheng Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 9 48 80 a b Chen Matthew Y 2000 Tone Sandhi Patterns across Chinese dialects Cambridge England Cambridge University Press Lien Chin fa 連金發 1999 A Typological Study of Causatives in Taiwanese Southern Min 台灣閩南語使動式的類型研究 The Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies 29 4 395 422 教育部臺灣閩南語常用詞辭典 Ministry of Education Taiwan Retrieved 11 June 2019 Wu Rui wen 吳瑞文 2005 吳閩方言音韻比較研究 Doctoral dissertation p 46 p 65 National Chengchi University Available at NCCU Institutional Repository a b Maddieson Ian 2013 Tone In Dryer Matthew S Haspelmath Martin eds The World Atlas of Language Structures Online Leipzig Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Hombert Ohala amp Ewan 1979 Everett C Blasi D E Roberts S G 2015 Climate vocal folds and tonal languages Connecting the physiological and geographic dots Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 5 1322 1327 Bibcode 2015PNAS 112 1322E doi 10 1073 pnas 1417413112 PMC 4321236 PMID 25605876 Lewin Sarah 1 April 2015 Wet Is Better for Tonal Languages Scientific American 312 4 19 doi 10 1038 scientificamerican0415 19 Gussenhoven Carlos 2016 Commentary Tonal complexity in non tonal languages Journal of Language Evolution 1 1 62 64 doi 10 1093 jole lzv016 Ladd D Robert 2016 Commentary Tone languages and laryngeal precision Journal of Language Evolution 1 1 70 72 doi 10 1093 jole lzv014 Roberts Sean G 2018 Robust Causal and Incremental Approaches to Investigating Linguistic Adaptation Frontiers in Psychology 9 166 doi 10 3389 fpsyg 2018 00166 PMC 5826341 PMID 29515487 Palancar E L Leonard J L 2016 Tone and inflection An introduction In Palancar E L Leonard J L eds Tone and Inflection New Facts and New Perspectives Berlin Walter de Gruyter pp 1 12 Bateman Janet Iau Verb Morphology PDF Nusa Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia Jakarta Universitas Katolik Atma Jaya pp 3rd 9th in PDF Foley William A 2018 The languages of Northwest New Guinea In Palmer Bill ed The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area A Comprehensive Guide The World of Linguistics Vol 4 Berlin De Gruyter Mouton pp 433 568 ISBN 978 3 11 028642 7 Hyman L M 2016 Morphological tonal assignments in conflict Who wins In Palancar E L Leonard J L eds Tone and Inflection New Facts and New Perspectives Berlin Germany Walter de Gruyter pp 15 39 Lai W Y 2010 The Source of Hakka Personal Pronoun and Genitive with the Viewpoint of Diminutive Journal of Taiwanese Languages and Literature 5 1 53 80 Sun H K 1996 Case markers of personal pronouns in Tibeto Burman languages Linguistics of the Tibeto Burman Area 19 2 1 15 Barry Heselwood 2013 Phonetic Transcription in Theory and Practice Edinburgh University Press p 7 International Phonetic Association 1989 p 76 a b Montgomery Anderson Brad 30 May 2008 A Reference Grammar of Oklahoma Cherokee Ph D University of Kansas p 49 a b Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform The seminal references are Haudricourt 1954 and Haudricourt 1961 Haudricourt 2017 Kirby amp Brunelle 2017 Kang Yoonjung Han Sungwoo September 2013 Tonogenesis in early Contemporary Seoul Korean A longitudinal case study Lingua 134 62 74 doi 10 1016 j lingua 2013 06 002 Kim Mi Ryoung 2013 Tonogenesis in contemporary Korean with special reference to the onset tone interaction and the loss of a consonant opposition The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 133 3570 3570 Bibcode 2013ASAJ 133 3570K doi 10 1121 1 4806535 Cho Sunghye 2017 Development of pitch contrast and Seoul Korean intonation PDF PhD University of Pennsylvania Archived from the original on 2020 10 29 Michaud amp Sands 2020 Kingston 2011 pp 2304 2310 Bhatia 1975 Kingston 2011 pp 2310 2314 Kingston 2011 p 2311 Ratliff Martha 2015 Tonoexodus tonogenesis and tone change In P Honeybone amp J Salmons Eds The Oxford Handbook of Historical Phonology pp 245 261 Oxford University Press Ratliff Martha 2017 Structure of Hmong Mien Languages Session 3 Tonology Slides for the 2017 LSA Institute at University of Kentucky Esposito Christina M 2012 An acoustic and electroglottographic study of White Hmong tone and phonation Journal of Phonetics 40 3 466 476 Garellek Marc Keating Patricia Esposito Christina M amp Kreiman Jody 2013 Voice quality and tone identification in White Hmong The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 133 2 1078 1089 Matisoff James A 1999 Tibeto Burman tonology in an areal context In Proceedings of the symposium Crosslinguistic studies of tonal phenomena Tonogenesis Japanese Accentology and Other Topics pp 3 31 Tokyo Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Haudricourt 2018 Ferlus Michel 2004 The origin of tones in Viet Muong In Papers from the Eleventh Annual Conference of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 2001 pp 297 313 HAL 00927222 Kirby J 2010 Dialect experience in Vietnamese tone perception The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 127 6 3749 3757 Vũ Thanh Phương 1982 Phonetic properties of Vietnamese tones across dialects In D Bradley Ed Papers in Southeast Asian Linguistics 8 Tonation pp 55 75 Canberra Australian National University Norquest Peter K 2007 A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto Hlai Doctoral dissertation University of Arizona Pittayaporn Pittayawat 2009 The Phonology of Proto Tai Doctoral dissertation Cornell University Burusphat Somsonge 2012 Tones of Thai Song Varieties Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society JSEALS 5 32 48 Ratliff Martha 2002 Timing tonogenesis Evidence from borrowing Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 28 2 29 41 Dai Yi Chun 1991 The phonological domain of tone in Chinese Historical perspectives Master s thesis Simon Fraser University a b c Huang Bo Rong amp Liao Xu Dong 黄伯荣 廖序东 2002 Xiandai Hanyu 现代汉语 3rd ed vol 1 pp 85 86 Beijing 高等教育出版社 a b Hakka Affairs Council 2018 Vocabulary for the Hakka Proficiency Test Elementary Sixian 客語能力認證基本詞彙 初級 四縣腔 Available at https elearning hakka gov tw ver2015 a b Peking University Department of Chinese Language and Literature 北京大学中国语言文学系 1995 Hanyu Fangyan Cihui 汉语方言词汇 2nd ed Beijing 语文出版社 Bowden Andrea Lynn 7 March 2012 Punjabi Tonemics and the Gurmukhi Script A Preliminary Study Theses and Dissertations Yip 2002 p 131 Chen Zhongmin Studies in Dialects in the Shanghai Area Lincom Europa 2003 p 74 Yip 2002 pp 172 173 Alves Mark 1995 Tonal Features and the Development of Vietnamese Tones PDF Working Papers in Linguistics Department of University of Hawaii at Manoa 27 1 13 Clearly language contact with Chinese had something to do with the development of Vietnamese tones as the tonal system of Vietnamese corresponds quite directly to the eight way system of Middle Chinese Ho Min Sohn 29 March 2001 The Korean Language Cambridge University Press pp 48 ISBN 978 0 521 36943 5 Iksop Lee S Robert Ramsey 2000 The Korean Language SUNY Press pp 315 ISBN 978 0 7914 4832 8 Ki Moon Lee S Robert Ramsey 3 March 2011 A History of the Korean Language Cambridge University Press pp 168 ISBN 978 1 139 49448 9 Lust Barbara Wali Kashi Gair James et al eds 1999 Lexical Anaphors and Pronouns in Selected South Asian Languages Walter de Gruyter p 637 ISBN 978 3 11 014388 1 Ager Simon ed Punjabi ਪ ਜ ਬ پنجابی Omniglot Retrieved 2015 01 30 Karamat Nayyara Phonemic Inventory of Punjabi PDF Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing Archived from the original PDF on 2015 09 23 Retrieved 2015 01 30 Sen Geeti 1997 Crossing Boundaries Orient Blackswan p 132 ISBN 978 81 250 1341 9 Possibly Punjabi is the only major South Asian language that has this kind of tonal character There does seem to have been some speculation among scholars about the possible origin of Punjabi s tone language character but without any final and convincing answer Pal Animesh K 1965 Phonemes of a Dacca Dialect of Eastern Bengali and the Importance of Tone Journal of the Asiatic Society VII 44 45 The tonal element in Panjabi as well as in Eastern Bengali has been noticed in respect of various new ways of treating the voiced aspirates and h Masica Colin P 1991 The Indo Aryan Languages Cambridge University Press p 102 Glottalization is often connected with tone and in the East Bengali cases seem to be related to the evolution of tone from the voiced aspirates Yip 2002 pp 212 214 Bibliography EditBhatia T K 1975 The evolution of tones in Punjabi Studies in Linguistic Sciences 5 2 12 24 Bao Zhiming 1999 The Structure of Tone New York Oxford University Press ISBN 978 0 19 511880 3 Chen Matthew Y 2000 Tone sandhi Patterns across Chinese dialects Cambridge England Cambridge University Press ISBN 978 0 521 65272 8 Clements George N Goldsmith John eds 1984 Autosegmental Studies in Bantu Tone Berlin Mouton de Gruyer Fromkin Victoria A ed 1978 Tone A Linguistic Survey New York Academic Press Halle Morris Stevens Kenneth 1971 A note on laryngeal features Quarterly Progress Report 101 MIT Haudricourt Andre Georges 2018 Translated by Marc Brunelle The origin of tones in Vietnamese translation of De l origine des tons en vietnamien Problemes de phonologie diachronique 146 160 HAL 01678018 Haudricourt Andre Georges 1954 De l origine des tons en vietnamien Journal Asiatique 242 69 82 Haudricourt Andre Georges 2017 Translated by Guillaume Jacques How to reconstruct Old Chinese translation of Comment reconstruire le chinois archaique Problemes de phonologie diachronique 161 182 Retrieved 2021 02 15 Reprinted with additions Haudricourt Andre Georges 1954 Comment reconstruire le chinois archaique Word 10 2 3 351 364 doi 10 1080 00437956 1954 11659532 Retrieved 2021 02 15 Haudricourt Andre Georges 1961 Bipartition et tripartition des systemes de tons dans quelques langues d Extreme Orient Bulletin de la Societe de Linguistique de Paris 56 1 163 180 Haudricourt Andre Georges 1972 Two way and Three way Splitting of Tonal Systems in Some Far Eastern Languages In Jimmy G Harris Richard B Noss eds Tai phonetics and phonology PDF Translated by Christopher Court Bangkok Central Institute of English Language Mahidol University pp 58 86 Retrieved 2021 02 15 Translation of Haudricourt 1961 Hombert Jean Marie Ohala John J Ewan William G 1979 Phonetic explanations for the development of tones Language 55 1 37 58 doi 10 2307 412518 JSTOR 412518 Hyman Larry M 2007a There is no pitch accent prototype 2007 LSA Meeting Anaheim CA Hyman Larry M 2007b DRAFT Tone Is it Different In John Goldsmith Jason Riggle Alan Yu eds The Handbook of Phonological Theory PDF 2nd ed Blackwell Archived from the original PDF on 2012 07 28 via UC Berkeley Phonology Lab Annual Report 2007 Hyman Larry M 2009 How not to do phonological typology The case of pitch accent PDF Language Sciences 31 2 3 213 238 doi 10 1016 j langsci 2008 12 007 International Phonetic Association 1989 Report on the 1989 Kiel Convention Journal of the International Phonetic Association 19 2 67 80 doi 10 1017 S0025100300003868 JSTOR 44526032 Kingston John 2005 The phonetics of Athabaskan tonogenesis In Hargus Sharon Rice Keren eds Athabaskan Prosody Amsterdam John Benjamins Publishing pp 137 184 ISBN 9789027285294 Kingston John 2011 Tonogenesis PDF In Marc van Oostendorp Colin J Ewen Elizabeth Hume Keren Rice eds The Blackwell companion to phonology Volume 4 Phonological interfaces Chichester Wiley Blackwell pp 2304 2333 Kirby James Brunelle Marc 2017 Southeast Asian Tone in Areal Perspective In Raymond Hickey ed The Cambridge Handbook of Areal Linguistics Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics Cambridge Cambridge University Press pp 703 731 doi 10 1017 9781107279872 027 ISBN 9781107279872 Maddieson Ian 1978 Universals of tone In Greenberg J H ed Universals of human language Phonology Vol 2 Stanford Stanford University Press Michaud Alexis Vaissiere Jacqueline 2015 Tone and intonation introductory notes and practical recommendations KALIPHO Kieler Arbeiten zur Linguistik und Phonetik 3 43 80 Michaud Alexis Sands Bonny 2020 Tonogenesis In Aronoff Mark ed Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics Oxford Oxford University Press doi 10 1093 acrefore 9780199384655 013 748 ISBN 9780199384655 Odden David 1995 Tone African languages In Goldsmith J ed Handbook of Phonological Theory Oxford Basil Blackwell Odden David 2020 Tone In Rainer Vossen Gerrit J Dimmendaal eds The Oxford Handbook of African Languages Oxford Oxford University Press pp 30 47 ISBN 9780199609895 Pike Kenneth L 1948 Tone Languages A Technique for Determining the Number and Type of Pitch Contrasts In a Language with Studies in Tonemic Substitution and Fusion Ann Arbor The University of Michigan Press Reprinted 1972 ISBN 0 472 08734 7 Wee Lian Hee 2008 Phonological Patterns in the Englishes of Singapore and Hong Kong World Englishes 27 3 4 480 501 doi 10 1111 j 1467 971X 2008 00580 x Yip Moira 2002 Tone Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics Cambridge Cambridge University Press ISBN 978 0 521 77314 0 ISBN 0 521 77445 4 pbk External links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to Tones World map of tone languages The World Atlas of Language Structures Online Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Tone linguistics amp oldid 1092373201, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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