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Eric Christopherson wrote:

>Kristian Jensen wrote:
>> Below are some examples of natlangs that appear to reflect
>> this:
>>
>> Why has Chinese become tonal for instance? One reason could be
>> that since roots are predominantly monosyllabic and simple in
>> structure, tones would have to arise to compensate for a lack
>> of phonemic opposition in words (i.e., to decrease the number
>> of homophones). But say Chinese developed into a language with
>> polysyllables, then the tonal contrasts would not be necessary.
>> In fact, Mandarin Chinese with only four contrastive tones has
>> quite a few polysyllabic roots. Other Chinese dialects with
>> more than four tones are more monosyllabic than Mandarin.
>> Basically, these changes attempt to preserve the number of
>> possible roots.
>
>Very interesting theory. However, am I correct in thinking that
>Cantonese has something like 8 tones *and* allows more final
>consonants than Mandarin?
>
Exactly my point. Cantonese is even more monosyllabic than Mandarin.
If you think about it, the combination of more final consonants and
more tones matters a lot to the total count of possible roots.
Cantonese allows more tones *and* more final consonants than
Mandarin, thus Cantonese can produce more syllables than Mandarin.
Therefore, if Mandarin is more impoverished in producing a vast
amounts of monosyllables (due to less tones and less final
consonants), it must muster the ideal amount of roots in other ways
like polysyllabicism. Alternatively, if Cantonese can produce more
syllables than Mandarin, it wouldn't have to resort to
polysyllabicism.

Regards,
-Kristian- 8-)