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Tone is the use of
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octaves ...
in
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to
inflect In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
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 In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
''. Tonal languages are common in East and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific; and as many as seventy percent of world languages are tonal. 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. Mandarin Chinese uses four diacritical marks for the four tones of pinyin (romanization), 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 acute accent, , is a used in many modern written languages with s based on the , , and scripts. Uses History An early precursor of the acute accent was the , used in inscriptions to mark . Pitch Ancient Greek The acute accent was ...

acute accent
), the third tone is a slight fall followed by a rising tone (mǎ, symbolized by a
caron A caron (), háček or haček ( or ; plural ''háčeks'' or ''háčky'') also known as a hachek, wedge, check, kvačica, strešica, mäkčeň, paukščiukas, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, or flying bird, is a diacritic (ˇ) commonly placed ...

caron
/háček), and the fourth tone is a falling tone (mà, symbolized by a
grave accent The grave accent ( ` ) ( or ) is a diacritical A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph In typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assem ...

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 to 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.


Mechanics

Most languages use
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octaves ...
as intonation to convey
prosody Prosody may refer to: * Sanskrit prosody, Prosody (Sanskrit), the study of poetic meters and verse in Sanskrit and one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of Vedic studies * Prosody (Greek), the theory and practice of Greek versification * Prosody (Lati ...
and
pragmatics In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
, but this does not make them tonal languages. In tonal languages, each
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
has an inherent pitch contour, and thus
minimal pair In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, spoken or Sign language, signed, that differ in only one phonological element, such as a phoneme, toneme or chroneme, and have distinct meanings. They are used to ...
s (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: : :
Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic languages, Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin ...
, which has
five tones
five tones
, transcribed by letters with diacritics over vowels: # A high level tone: /á/ (
pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, ...

pinyin
) # A tone starting with mid pitch and rising to a high pitch: /ǎ/ (pinyin ) # 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 ) # A short, sharply falling tone, starting high and falling to the bottom of the speaker's vocal range: /â/ (pinyin ) # A
neutral tone This article summarizes the phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sig ...
, 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 ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, ...

pinyin
transcription: # ''mā'' (/) 'mother' # ''má'' (/) 'hemp' # ''mǎ'' (/) 'horse' # ''mà'' (/) 'scold' # ''ma'' (/) (an interrogative particle) These may be combined into the rather contrived sentence: : Simplified: :
Traditional A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the wo ...
: :Pinyin: ''Māma mà mǎde má ma?'' :IPA :Translation: 'Is mom scolding the horse's hemp?' A well-known
tongue-twister A tongue twister is a phrase that is designed to be difficult to articulate properly, and can be used as a type of spoken (or sung) word game Word games (also called word game puzzles or word search games) are spoken or board games often desig ...
in Standard Thai is: : :IPA: :Translation: 'Does new silk burn?' A Vietnamese tongue twisters: : :IPA: :Translation: 'All along you've set up the seven traps incorrectly!' A Cantonese tongue twister: : :
Jyutping Jyutping is a romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and model ...
: ''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.'' Tone is most frequently manifested on vowels, but in most tonal languages where
voiced Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study th ...
syllabic consonant A syllabic consonant or vocalic consonant is a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced wit ...
s occur they will bear tone as well. This is especially common with syllabic nasals, for example in many
Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styling, Bantu knots, a type of African hairstyle *Blac ...
and
Kru languages The Kru languages are spoken by the Kru people The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who are indigenous to eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but ...

Kru languages
, but also occurs in
Serbo-Croatian Serbo-Croatian () – also called Serbo-Croat (), Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (SCB), Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), and Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian (BCMS) – is a South Slavic language The South Slavic languages are one of three branche ...
. 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 Panjābī (pʌnˈdʒɑːbi) (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) (پنجابی) Punjabi or Panjabi most often refers to: * Something of, from, or related to Punjab Punjab ( Gurmukhi: ; Shahmukhi: ; , ; , ; ; also romanised as Panjāb or Panj-Āb) is a ge ...
. Tones can interact in complex ways through a process known as
tone sandhi Tone sandhi is a phonological change occurring in tonal languages Tone is the use of pitch (music), pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflection, inflect words. All verbal langua ...
.


Phonation

In a number of East Asian languages, tonal differences are closely intertwined with
phonation The term phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—lingu ...
differences. In
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

Vietnamese
, for example, the and tones are both high-rising but the former is distinguished by having
glottalization Glottalization is the complete or partial closure of the glottis during the articulation of another sound. Glottalization of vowels and other sonorants is most often realized as creaky voice (partial closure). Glottalization of obstruent consonan ...
in the middle. Similarly, the and tones are both low-falling, but the tone is shorter and pronounced with
creaky voice In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
at the end, while the tone is longer and often has
breathy voice Breathy voice (also called murmured voice, whispery voice, soughing and susurration) is a phonation The term phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, ''phonation'' is the p ...
. 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 shall 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.Kuang, J.-J. (2013). ''Phonation in Tonal Contrasts (Doctoral dissertation)''. University of California, Los Angeles. 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 Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...
, 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 A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
since they are reminiscent of
stress accent In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
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: 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 falling intonation.


Tonal polarity

Languages with simple tone systems or
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
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 The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation has the larges ...
, for example, syllables have a low tone by default, whereas marked syllables have high tone. In the related language
Sekani Sekani or Tse’khene are a First Nations The First Nations (french: Premières Nations ) are the largest group of indigenous peoples in Canada, Canadian indigenous peoples, distinct from the Inuit and Métis. Traditionally the First Nations l ...
, 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 Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, stressed syllables have a lower pitch.


Types


In many
Bantu languages The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or o ...
, 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 Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic languages, Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin ...
, 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 Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
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 The Vietic languages are a branch of the Austroasiatic languages, Austroasiatic language family. The branch was once referred to by the terms ''Việt–Mường'', ''Annamese–Muong'', and ''Vietnamuong''; the term ''Vietic'' was proposed by L ...
,
Sino-Tibetan Sino-Tibetan, also known as Trans-Himalayan in a few sources, is a family of more than 400 languages, second only to Indo-European in number of native speakers. The vast majority of these are the 1.3 billion native speakers of Chinese languages ...

Sino-Tibetan
,
Afroasiatic Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...

Afroasiatic
,
Khoisan Khoisan , or (), according to the contemporary Khoekhoegowab The Khoekhoe language (), also known by the ethnic terms Nama (''Namagowab'') , Damara (''ǂNūkhoegowab''), or Nama/Damara and formerly as Hottentot, is the most widespread ...

Khoisan
, Niger-Congo and
Nilo-Saharan The Nilo-Saharan languages are a proposed family of African languages spoken by some 50–60 million people, mainly in the upper parts of the Chari and Nile rivers, including historic Nubia, north of where the two tributaries of the Nile meet. Th ...
languages. Most tonal languages combine both register and contour tones, such as
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

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 Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
use contour tones, where the distinguishing feature of the tones are their shifts in pitch (that is, the pitch is a
contour Contour may refer to: * Contour (linguistics) In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language ...
), 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 The Kru languages are spoken by the Kru people The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who are indigenous to eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but ...

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 Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, Brit ...
,
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
, and
Kru languages The Kru languages are spoken by the Kru people The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who are indigenous to eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but ...

Kru languages
, each syllable may have a tone, whereas in
Shanghainese Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai language, Shanghai dialect, or Hu language, is a Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily i ...
,
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
,
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
and many
Bantu languages The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or o ...
, 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. Many languages described as having
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
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: After high level and high rising tones, the neutral syllable has an independent pitch that looks like a mid-register tonethe 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 A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar of a language. Within each category there are two or more possible values (sometimes called grammemes), which are normally mutually exclusive. Frequently encou ...
. 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 The Kam–Sui languages () are a branch of the Kra–Dai languages spoken by the Kam–Sui peoples. They are spoken mainly in eastern Guizhou, western Hunan, and northern Guangxi in southern China. Small pockets of Kam–Sui speakers are also foun ...
of southern China have nine contrastive tones, including contour tones. For example, the
Kam language The Kam language, also known as Gam (autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is ...
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 syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of Phone (phonetics), speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often consi ...
s are not counted as having additional tones, as they traditionally are in China. For example, in the traditional reckoning, the
Kam language The Kam language, also known as Gam (autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is ...
has 15 tones, but 6 occur only in syllables closed with the voiceless
stop consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ev ...
s , or 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 Ticuna, or Tikuna, is a language spoken by approximately 50,000 people in Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5  ...

Ticuna language
of the Amazon and the
Chatino language Chatino is a group of indigenous Mesoamerican languages. These languages are a branch of the Zapotecan family within the Oto-Manguean The Oto-Manguean or Otomanguean languages are a large family comprising several subfamilies of indigenous lan ...
s of southern Mexico suggests that some dialects may distinguish as many as fourteen tones or more. The Guere language,
Dan language Dan is a Mande language spoken primarily in Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Ivory Coast's political capital is Yamo ...
and
Mano language The Mano language, also known as Maa, Mah, and Mawe, is a significant Mande language of Liberia Liberia (), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region ...
of Liberia and Ivory Coast have around 10 tones, give or take. The
Oto-Manguean The Oto-Manguean or Otomanguean languages are a large family comprising several subfamilies of indigenous languages of the Americas. All of the Oto-Manguean languages that are now spoken are indigenous to Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nah ...
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


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 Prosody may refer to: * Sanskrit prosody, Prosody (Sanskrit), the study of poetic meters and verse in Sanskrit and one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of Vedic studies * Prosody (Greek), the theory and practice of Greek versification * Prosody (Lati ...
, the absolute pitch of a high tone at the end of a
prosodic unit In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
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
downdriftIn phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical prop ...
. Tones may affect each other just as consonants and vowels do. In many register-tone languages, low tones may cause a
downstep Downstep is a phenomenon in tone languages in which if two syllables have the same tone (for example, both with a high tone or both with a low tone), the second syllable is lower in pitch than the first. Two main kinds of downstep can be disting ...
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 Tone terracing is a type of phonetic Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling t ...
. 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 tone Floating may refer to: * a type of dental work performed on horse teeth Horse teeth refers to the dentition of equine species, including horses and donkeys. Equines are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in mor ...
s.


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 ('very') and 好 ('good') produce the phrase 很好 ('very good'). The two transcriptions may be conflated with reversed tone letters as .


Right- and left-dominant sandhi

Tone sandhi in
Sinitic languages The Sinitic languages, often synonymous with "Chinese languages", constitute the major branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages, Sino-Tibetan language family. It is frequently proposed that there is a primary split between the Sinitic languages an ...
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 Tone sandhi is a phonological change occurring in tonal languages Tone is the use of pitch (music), pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflection, inflect words. All verbal langua ...
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 Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucrac ...
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


Uses of tone

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 Hmong may refer to: * Hmong people #REDIRECT Hmong people#REDIRECT Hmong people The Hmong people ( RPA: ''Hmoob'', Nyiakeng Puachue: "𞄀𞄩𞄰", Pahawh Hmong: "𖬌𖬣𖬵" ) are an ethnic group living mainly in southern China, Vietna ...
. However, in many African languages, especially in the Niger–Congo family, tone can be both lexical and grammatical. In the
Kru languages The Kru languages are spoken by the Kru people The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who are indigenous to eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but ...

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 A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
, and
polarity Polarity may refer to: Science *Polarity (mutual inductance), the relationship between components such as transformer windings *Polarity (projective geometry), in mathematics, a duality of order two *Polarity in embryogenesis, the animal and vegeta ...
, so that tone may be the only distinguishing feature between "you went" and "I won't go". In colloquial
Yoruba Yoruba may refer to: * Yoruba people The Yoruba people () are a Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the U ...
, especially when spoken quickly, vowels may assimilate to each other, and consonants
elide In linguistics, an elision or deletion is broadly defined as the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase. However, it is also used to refer more narrowly to cases where two words are r ...
so much that much of the lexical and grammatical information is carried by tone. In languages of West Africa such as Yoruba, people may even communicate with so-called "
talking drum The talking drum is an hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, ...

talking drum
s", which are modulated to imitate the tones of the language, or by
whistling Whistling without the use of an artificial whistle A whistle is an instrument which produces sound from a stream of gas, most commonly air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means. Whistles vary in size fr ...
the tones of speech. 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 Caleb (), sometimes transliterated as Kaleb ( he, כָּלֵב, ''Kalev'', ; Tiberian vocalization: Kālēḇ; Academy of the Hebrew Language, Hebrew Academy: Kalev), is a figure who appears in the Hebrew Bible as a representative of the Tribe of J ...
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 and inflection

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 In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
. Palancar and Léonard (2016) provided an example with Tlatepuzco
Chinantec The Chinantec or Chinantecan languages constitute a branch of the Oto-Manguean family. Though traditionally considered a single language, ''Ethnologue ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as Ethnoloɠue) is an annual reference publ ...
(an Oto-Manguean language spoken in Southern
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organi ...

Mexico
), where tones are able to distinguish mood,
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
, and
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
: Tones are used to differentiate cases as well, as in
Maasai language Maasai (Masai) or Maa (; autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym * Autonym (botany), an automatically created infrageneric or infraspecific name See als ...
(a
Nilo-Saharan language The Nilo-Saharan languages are a proposed family of African languages spoken by some 50–60 million people, mainly in the upper parts of the Chari River, Chari and Nile rivers, including historic Nubia, north of where the two tributaries of the N ...
spoken in
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
and
Tanzania Tanzania (; ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern subregion of the Africa Africa is the world's second-larges ...

Tanzania
): Certain
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
are known to express meaning by means of tone change although further investigations are required. Examples from two
Yue dialects Yue () is a group of similar Sinitic languages spoken in Northern and southern China, Southern China, particularly in Liangguang (the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces). The name Cantonese is often used for the whole group, but linguists prefer ...
spoken in
Guangdong Province Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...
are shown below.Chen, Matthew Y. (2000). ''Tone Sandhi: Patterns across Chinese dialects''. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. In Taishan, tone change indicates the grammatical number of personal pronouns. In Zhongshan,
perfective The perfective aspect ( abbreviated ), sometimes called the aorist Aorist (; abbreviated ) verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ' ...
verbs are marked with tone change. * Taishan * Zhongshan The following table compares the personal pronouns of Sixian dialect (a dialect of
Taiwanese Hakka Taiwanese Hakka is a language group consisting of Hakka dialects spoken in Taiwan Taiwan (), officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. Neighbouring countries include the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to ...
) with Zaiwa and Jingpho (both
Tibeto-Burman languages The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non- Sinitic members of the Sino-Tibetan language family Sino-Tibetan, also known as Trans-Himalayan in a few sources, is a family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people rela ...
spoken in
Yunnan Yunnan () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is Ku ...

Yunnan
and
Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos a ...

Burma
). From this table, we find the distinction between nominative, genitive, and accusative is marked by tone change and sound alternation.


Phonetic notation

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 This article summarizes the phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular lan ...
" 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 Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, ...

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 Proto-Tai is the reconstructed proto-language (common ancestor) of all the Tai languages, including modern Lao, Shan, Tai Lü, Tai Dam, Ahom, Northern Thai, Standard Thai, Bouyei, and Zhuang. The Proto-Tai language is not directly atte ...
.) 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 Downstep is a phenomenon in tone languages in which if two syllables have the same tone (for example, both with a high tone or both with a low tone), the second syllable is lower in pitch than the first. Two main kinds of downstep can be disting ...
, which are indicated by the IPA diacritics and , respectively, or by the typographic substitutes . 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 The Kru languages are spoken by the Kru people The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who are indigenous to eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but ...

Kru languages
of Liberia, but with 1 for low and 5 for high for the Omotic languages of Ethiopia. The tone in a Kru language is thus the same pitch contour as one written 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 for high tone and 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 , 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 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 or . For the Chinantecan languages of Mexico, the diacritics 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., ). 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: (high peaking tone), (low level tone), etc. It was used in combination with stress marks to indicate intonation as well, as in English (now transcribed ). * 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 Tone sandhi is a phonological change occurring in tonal languages Tone is the use of pitch (music), pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflection, inflect words. All verbal langua ...
. These are especially important for the Min Chinese languages. For example, a word may be pronounced in isolation, but in a compound the tone will shift to . This can be notated morphophonemically as , 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 . 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. 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 Prosody may refer to: * Sanskrit prosody, Prosody (Sanskrit), the study of poetic meters and verse in Sanskrit and one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of Vedic studies * Prosody (Greek), the theory and practice of Greek versification * Prosody (Lati ...
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: 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: ''má'' (high), ''ma'' (mid), ''mà'' (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 syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of Phone (phonetics), speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often consi ...
s 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 Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
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 "Y. R. Chao, 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 International Phonetic Alphabet#Typefaces, compatible font installed): 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 and falling , 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 and for high-rising (e.g. ) and high-falling (e.g. ) tones and to use the subscript diacritics and for low-rising (e.g. ) and low-falling (e.g. ) tones.


North America

Several North American languages have tone, one of which is Cherokee language, 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, Tanoan languages have tone as well. For instance, Kiowa language, Kiowa has three tones (high, low, falling), while Jemez language, 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 The Oto-Manguean or Otomanguean languages are a large family comprising several subfamilies of indigenous languages of the Americas. All of the Oto-Manguean languages that are now spoken are indigenous to Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nah ...
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 or after a vowel to indicate low tone. The Southern Athabascan languages that include the
Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation has the larges ...
and Apache languages are tonal, and are analyzed as having two tones: high and low. One variety of Hopi language, 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 ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, ...

pinyin
, but they tend to be omitted. Thai alphabet, 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 language, Dungan, a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Central Asia, has, since 1927, been written in orthographies that do not indicate tone.''Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform''
/ref> Ndyuka language, 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 Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
has five tones–mid, low, falling, high and rising–often indicated respectively by the numbers zero, one, two, three and four. The Thai alphabet, Thai written script is an abugida, 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 Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

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: The Latin-based
Hmong Hmong may refer to: * Hmong people #REDIRECT Hmong people#REDIRECT Hmong people The Hmong people ( RPA: ''Hmoob'', Nyiakeng Puachue: "𞄀𞄩𞄰", Pahawh Hmong: "𖬌𖬣𖬵" ) are an ethnic group living mainly in southern China, Vietna ...
and Iu Mien language, 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 language, Iu Mien, the letters ''v, c, h, x, z'' indicate tones but unlike Hmong, it also has final consonants written before the tone. 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.


Origin and development

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 feature, areal rather than a Genetic relationship (linguistics), 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 language shift, shift to the language in question and bring their tones with them. The process is referred to as contact-induced tonogenesis by linguists.Kirby, James & Marc Brunelle. (2017)
Asian Tone in Areal Perspective
In R. Hickey (Ed.), ''The Cambridge Handbook of Areal Linguistics'' (pp. 703-731). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In other cases, tone may arise spontaneously and surprisingly fast: the dialect of Cherokee language, Cherokee in Oklahoma has tone, but the dialect in North Carolina does not although they were Trail of Tears, 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 The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation has the larges ...
, syllables with glottalized consonants (including glottal stops) in the syllable coda developed low tones, whereas in others, such as Slavey language, 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 language, Koyukon) and the Pacific coast (such as Hupa language, Hupa), did not develop tone. Thus, the Proto-Athabascan word ' ('water') is toneless ' in Hupa, high-tone ' in Navajo, and low-tone ''tù'' in Slavey; while Proto-Athabascan ' ('knee') is toneless ' in Hupa, low-tone ' in Navajo, and high-tone ' in Slavey. 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 In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
, 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 The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or o ...
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 language, Cheyenne, Arapaho language, Arapaho, and Kickapoo language, 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 language, 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 Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

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, Fortis and lenis, 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

"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 Phonological change#Loss, loss or Phonological change#Merger, 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 contrast, phonemic). This process happened in the Punjabi language: the Punjabi breathy voice, 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 lenition, weaken to 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 Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
final consonants and 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 Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
and
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

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 Hmong language, White Hmong, described by Martha Ratliff. The tone values described in the table are from Christina Esposito. 2. The table below shows the
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

Vietnamese
tonogenesis. The tone values are taken from James Kirby. 3. The table below is the tonogenesis of Tai Dam language, 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. 4. The table below shows the Chinese language tonogenesis. The tone values are listed below: #SC= Standard Chinese (Putonghua) #TSH= Sixian dialect, Taiwanese Sixian Hakka #THH= Hailu dialect, Taiwanese Hailu Hakka #XMM= Amoy dialect, Xiamen Min (Amoy) #FZM= Fuzhou dialect, Fuzhou Min #SZW= Suzhou dialect, Suzhou Wu #SXW= Shaoxing dialect, Shaoxing Wu The tones across all Variety (linguistics), 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 tone sandhi, 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. #H: high; M: mid; L: low; #L: level; R: rising; F: falling 5. The table below shows Punjabi tonogenesis in bisyllabic words. Unlike the above for 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. (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)


List of tonal languages


Africa

Most languages of Sub-Saharan Africa are members of the Niger–Congo languages, Niger-Congo family, which is predominantly tonal; notable exceptions are Swahili language, Swahili (in the southeast), most languages spoken in the Senegambia (among them Wolof language, Wolof, Serer language, Serer and Cangin languages), and Fula language, Fulani. The Afroasiatic languages include both tonal (Chadic languages, Chadic, Omotic languages, Omotic) and nontonal (Semitic languages, Semitic, Berber languages, Berber, Egyptian language, Egyptian, and most Cushitic languages, Cushitic) branches. All three
Khoisan Khoisan , or (), according to the contemporary Khoekhoegowab The Khoekhoe language (), also known by the ethnic terms Nama (''Namagowab'') , Damara (''ǂNūkhoegowab''), or Nama/Damara and formerly as Hottentot, is the most widespread ...

Khoisan
language families—Khoe languages, Khoe, Kx'a languages, Kx'a and Tuu languages, Tuu—are tonal. All languages of the Nilotic languages, Nilotic language family are tonal.


Asia

Numerous tonal languages are widely spoken in China and Mainland Southeast Asia. Sino-Tibetan languages (including Meitei language, Meitei-Lon, Burmese, Mog language, Mog and most
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
; though some, such as
Shanghainese Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai language, Shanghai dialect, or Hu language, is a Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily i ...
, are only marginally tonal) and Kra–Dai languages (including
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
and Lao language, 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 language, Khmer and Mon language, Mon) and Austronesian languages, Austronesian (such as Malay language, Malay, Javanese language, Javanese, Tagalog language, Tagalog, and Māori language, Maori) languages are mostly non tonal with the rare exception of Austroasiatic languages like
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

Vietnamese
, and Austronesian languages like Cèmuhî language, Cèmuhî and Tsat language, Tsat. Tones in
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

Vietnamese
and Tsat language, Tsat may result from Chinese language, Chinese influence on both languages. There were tones in Middle Korean. Other languages represented in the region, such as Mongolian language, Mongolian, Uyghur language, Uyghur, and Japanese language, 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 Panjābī (pʌnˈdʒɑːbi) (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) (پنجابی) Punjabi or Panjabi most often refers to: * Something of, from, or related to Punjab Punjab ( Gurmukhi: ; Shahmukhi: ; , ; , ; ; also romanised as Panjāb or Panj-Āb) is a ge ...
, Dogri language, Dogri, and Lahnda language, Lahnda as well as many Bengali-Assamese languages such as Sylheti language, Sylheti, Rohingya language, Rohingya, Chittagonian language, Chittagonian, and Chakma language, Chakma.


America

A large number of North, South and Central American languages are tonal, including many of the Athabaskan languages of Alaska and the Southwestern United States, American Southwest (including
Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation has the larges ...
), and the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico. Among the Mayan languages, which are mostly non-tonal, Yucatec Maya language, Yucatec (with the largest number of speakers), Uspantek language, Uspantek, and one dialect of Tzotzil language, Tzotzil have developed tone systems. The
Ticuna language Ticuna, or Tikuna, is a language spoken by approximately 50,000 people in Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5  ...

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: * Over 50% of the Sino-Tibetan languages. All Sinitic languages (most prominently, the Varieties of Chinese, Chinese languages), some Tibetic languages, including the standard languages of Tibet and Bhutan, and Burmese. * In the Austroasiatic languages, Austroasiatic family,
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

Vietnamese
and other members of the Vietic languages family are tonal. Other branches of this family, such as Mon language, Mon, Khmer language, Khmer, and the Munda languages, are entirely non-tonal. * Some of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, Malayo-Polynesian branch of Austronesian languages in New Caledonia (such as Paicî language, Paicî and Cèmuhî language, Cèmuhî) and New Guinea (such as Mor language (Austronesian), Mor, Ma'ya language, Ma'ya and Matbat language, Matbat) plus some of the Chamic languages such as Tsat language, Tsat in Hainan are tonal. * The entire Kra–Dai family, spoken mainly in China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos, and including
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
and Lao language, Lao, is tonal. * The entire Hmong–Mien languages, Hmong–Mien family is highly tonal. * Many Afroasiatic languages in the Chadic and Omotic branches have tone systems, including Hausa language, Hausa. * The vast majority of Niger–Congo languages, such as Ewe language, Ewe, Igbo language, Igbo, Lingala language, Lingala, Maninka language, Maninka,
Yoruba Yoruba may refer to: * Yoruba people The Yoruba people () are a Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the U ...
, and the Zulu language, Zulu, have tone systems. The
Kru languages The Kru languages are spoken by the Kru people The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who are indigenous to eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but ...

Kru languages
and Southern Mande languages have the most complex. Notable non-tonal Niger–Congo languages are Swahili language, Swahili, Fula language, Fula, and Wolof language, 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 language, Sandawe have tone systems like that of Cantonese. * Slightly more than half of the Athabaskan languages, such as
Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation has the larges ...
, 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 language, Mohawk commonly have tone; the Cherokee language has the most extensive tonal inventory, with six tones, of which four are contours. 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 Ticuna, or Tikuna, is a language spoken by approximately 50,000 people in Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5  ...

Ticuna language
of the western Amazon is strongly tonal. Various Arawakan languages have relatively basic tone systems. * Many languages of New Guinea like Siane language, Siane possess register tone systems. * Some Indo-European languages as well as others possess what is termed
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
, 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 language, Saramaccan and Papiamento, have tone from their African Stratum (linguistics)#Substratum, 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 The term phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—lingu ...
(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 phoneme, 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

* Meeussen's rule * Tone letter * Tone name * Tone number * Tone pattern * Musical language * Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * HAL 01678018. ** * Reprinted (with additions). ** * ** Translation of . * * * * * * * * * * * * (Reprinted 1972, ). * * (pbk).


External links


World map of tone languages
The World Atlas of Language Structures Online {{DEFAULTSORT:Tone (Linguistics) Tone (linguistics), Tonal languages, Linguistics terminology fr:Langue à tons