2011 LSA Orthography Symposium

Orthography and tone

Author  Kutsch Lojenga, Constance
  Leiden University/Addis Ababa University/SIL International

The majority of the world’s languages are tone languages. In such languages, tone may indicate minimal distinctions, both in the lexicon and in the grammar. In the past, tone has rarely been marked in orthographies, which has resulted in serious ambiguities for the reader.

This paper describes various ways in which tone can be marked in an orthography. Following that, it focuses on two main types of languages: those with ‘stable’ tone and those in which tones change according to the tonal context. In languages of the first type, tone generally has a heavy functional load, both lexically and grammatically. Writing tone on every syllable is important and straightforward. In the second type, languages with tonal sandhi rules, it is most important that grammatical distinctions are differentiated by tone marking. Each tone-orthography system needs its own specific approach for teaching.

Downloads  LSA - Orthography and Tone for LSA (PDF) 566 KB, 12 pages