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CONLANG  May 2004, Week 4

CONLANG May 2004, Week 4

Subject:

Re: C'ali update: tonal phonology

From:

"Thomas R. Wier" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 23 May 2004 14:19:42 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (74 lines)

From:         David Peterson <[log in to unmask]>
> Just a small question. If the tone of a word-final segment is
> always low, how can you tell that a suffix has an underlying low
> tone if it comes last? [snip]

Because word-final clitics, such as the tense markers _luN_ "distant
past" and _wi_ "recent past", may come after the final syllable of the
morphological word, thus allowing that syllable to reveal any tonal
specification it might have.

> Also, is it the case that C'ali *can* have underlyingly low tones?
> In most high/low systems I know of, there are no underlying low tones--
> they're assigned via a default rule.

No, there are plenty of Bantu languages that have two underlying
tone values.  The Lacustrine Bantu languages around Lake Victoria
such as Lloogoori are known for such a feature. Digo (which quite
possibly has the most complicated tonal system of any Bantu language)
also has two underlying values. They are also known from West African
languages of various families.

> In this way, high tones act very differently. What I mean is that
> an underlying high can spread, since its specified underlyingly.
> Underlying low tones cannot spread, however, since they're not
> there until the end.

Right -- this is true in some languages, e.g. Tonga. It's just not
true for others.

> Also, while affixes can have a tone attached to them, it's more
> common for them to have no tone attached to them at all.

Also true, but nonetheless there are tens if not hundreds of Bantu
languages with at least some affixes that bear underlying tone.

> Are there
> any affixes in C'ali that don't have any tones underlying, and do
> they behave differently from those that do? You mentioned that tone
> spreads leftward to prefixes. Does this mean that if a prefix has an
> underlying tone it'll be systematically removed, or does the displaced
> tone move around, or stick around, resulting in contours?

No, there are no tonal prefixes.  Firstly, there are very few prefixes;
so far, the only agreement markers are those dative prefixes I mentioned
in my post.  There are prefixes of various kinds that allow for the
agentive pivot, but these are derivational and form part of the stem.
(I should point out that this fact means I won't be able to distinguish
tonal properties of a macrostem and a regular stem in the way Bantu
languages do, since there are so few prefixes.)

> Just a few questions. I'm still having a devil of a time getting a hold
> of what tone is. I'm actually working on a South-East-Asian-style tone
> language right now, and so questions like the above are constantly
> troubling me.

Tonal languages are, indeed, fascinating.  When I took a course from
John Goldsmith on Bantu tone languages last year (see here for resources:
<http://humanities.uchicago.edu/faculty/goldsmith/bantucourse/>),
what was perhaps most striking to me was how radically otherwise
segmentally identical or very similar Bantu languages could differ
in their tonal and prosodic structure.  I plan to follow the same
pattern in the C'ali languages (of not having a clear pattern),
starting with the Classical C'ali which I have already presented.
I can't say that I know much about East Asian or Mesoamerican tone
languages, but then it seems to be the case that no one human
being has ever actually spent much time on all three major groups.

 =========================================================================
Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637

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