SIL International Home

Find Tonal Diversity in Languages of Papua New Guinea on the new SIL International website.

SIL Electronic Working Papers 2011-008

Tonal Diversity in Languages of Papua New Guinea

Author  Cahill, Michael
Abstract  Tone is well known in Asian and African languages, but less so in languages of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The major survey of New Guinean tone systems is Donohue (1997). The present paper introduces published and original data that support several types of tone systems of PNG, distinct from pitch-accent systems. Tone languages of PNG operate on either the word level or syllable level. Word-level tone languages operate in one of two ways. The first is by a limited set of melodies that spread through syllables of the word via standard autosegmental operations. The second type of word tone is that one syllable of a word displays contrastive tone (e.g. H vs. HL), and the remaining syllables’ tone is filled in by default procedures. Other languages of PNG display syllable-based tone, contrastive on each syllable of the word, independently of other syllables. Of particular note are a set of adjectives in the Awa language which obliterate the lexical tone of following words. This work, though produced independently of Donohue’s, largely agrees with his typology.
  Tonal Diversity in Languages of Papua New Guinea
Published  2011
Languages  Awa [awb]
Awad Bing [bcu]
Dadibi [mps]
Fasu [faa]
Gadsup [gaj]
Mian [mpt]
Narak [nac]
Rumu [klq]
Siane [snp]
Country  Papua New Guinea
Subject  Phonological descriptions
Keywords  word-level tone; syllable tone; Trans-New Guinea