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Steg Belsky scripsit:

> How is there no tone 6?

Middle Chinese, the undifferentiated parent of the modern Sinitic
languages, had four tones, conventionally numbered 1, 3, 5, 7, where 7
is a conventional tone label for syllables that ended in stops.  Due to
a general loss of consonant inventory in the modern languages, the tones
underwent tone splits into high and low versions; conventionally the
higher tones are still 1, 3, 5, 7 and the lower versions are 2, 4, 6,
8 respectively.

In Mandarin, the category of stop-final syllables disappeared altogether,
and those syllables were reallocated to the other tones.  Tone 1 split,
leaving Mandarin with four tones that would be conventionally numbered
1, 2, 3, 5.  However, pedagogical convenience has overridden historical
accuracy here, and tone 5 is always referred to as 4 in a purely Mandarin
context.  (The term "fifth tone" is sometimes applied unhistorically
to the "toneless" -- really variable-tone -- unstressed syllables that
occur in Mandarin but not in most other Sinitic languages.)

In Shanghainese, tones 3 and 5 merged, whereas tones 1 and 7 split,
leaving the language with five tones numbered 1, 2, 3, 7, 8.

In Cantonese, all the tones split, and tone 7 split three ways (high,
medium, low), producing 9 basic tones.  However, nowadays 7-high and 1
are pronounced alike, ditto for 7-medium and 5, ditto for 8 and 6;
making in effect only 6 tones.  (Sometimes in purely Cantonese contexts
the high tones are numbered 1, 2, 3 and their low versions 4, 5, 6,
confusingly enough.)

Doug, Ramsey says it's tone 4, not tone 6, that's missing in
Minnan/Hokkien.  Is this a discrepancy in numbering, or an error
somewhere?  To be clear, by 1, 3, 5, 7 I mean yin ping, shang, qu, and
ru sheng respectively, and by 2, 4, 6, 8 I mean yang ping, shang, qu,
and ru sheng respectively.

--
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