View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page
 

What is lexical tone?

 

Definition
 

Lexical tone is the distinctive pitch level carried by the syllable of a word which is an essential feature of the meaning of that word.

Discussion
 

An inventory of minimally distinctive pairs and sets in the lexicon will give you some idea of the functional load of tone in the lexicon.

Examples: Yaka (Bantu pygmy, Central African Republic)
 
Note:

Tone is marked as follows:

  • The acute accent |a@| means high tone
  • The unmarked |a| means low tone
 

These are examples of lexical tone in nouns.

 
  • mbo@ka village’
  • mboka@ ‘field’
  • mbo@ka ‘civet cat’
  • kusu ‘termite hill’
  • ku@su@ ‘species of tree’
  • m&u0254;k&u0254; ‘evening’
  • m&u0254;k&u0254;@ ‘kind of honey’
  • m&u0254;@k&u0254; ‘ceinture degrimpage’
 

These are examples of lexical tone in verbs:

 
  • tanga ‘to drip’
  • ta@nga ‘to count, to read’
  • ka@la ‘to take all in one go’
  • kala ‘to escape’
Examples: Ngiti (Central Sudanic, Zaire)
 
Note:

Tone is marked as follows:

  • The acute accent |a@| means high tone
  • The grave accent |a$| means low tone
  • The unmarked |a| means mid tone
  • The wedge |a&| means rising tone
 

These are examples of lexical tone in pronouns:

 
  • ma
  • ma& ‘we’
  • ny&u0268; ‘you’ (singular)
  • ny&u0268;ô ‘you’ (plural)
  • a$badhi ‘he’
  • aba@dh" ‘they’
Generic
 

A lexical tone is a kind of

 

tone

See also
 

Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 26 January 2004

© 2004 SIL International