[Lingtyp] Ideophonic intonation

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Mon Oct 23 01:51:02 UTC 2017

Hi Laura, and everybody,

One very widespread case that is akin to what you're asking for is that 
of the ubiquitous utterance-final particles in languages of Southeast 
Asia.  In Malay/Indonesian, which is the language that I'm most familiar 
with, every dialect has an inventory of (almost always monosyllabic) 
utterance-final particles that crucially, can only occur with a very 
specific and distinctive intonation contour, which differs from one 
particle to another.  (It's almost like an island of tonality in an 
otherwise non-tonal language.)  These particles aren't traditionally 
considered to be ideophones; however, they share many properties with 
ideophones, albeit not reduplication. Most importantly, they seem to lie 
outside the regular grammatical system of the language, belonging to a 
separate tier, as it were.

A second, more specific case, involving both reduplication and a 
distinctive intonation contour, is found in Malay/Indonesian; this is 
what I would call "mocking reduplication".  Prototypically applied to a 
disyllabic name, though it can be applied to just about any word, the 
name is reduplicated/repeated, e.g. /Budi Budi/, with a very specific 
intonational pattern: L H: L L.  Its use is associated with gentle, 
often affectionate mocking or reproach. (Oddly, I've heard what struck 
me as an almost identical intonation contour but without the distinctive 
semantics of the Malay/Indonesian construction at Barcelona airport, and 
it's probably much more widespread than that, where public address 
announcements begin with /atención atención/.)


On 23/10/2017 02:14, Laura McPherson wrote:
> Dear typology colleagues,
> I am thinking about writing about ideophones in Seenku (Samogo, 
> Northwestern Mande), and in particular about an ideophonic intonation 
> pattern that I have seen with many different ideophones that I am 
> calling "bouncing ball intonation". Briefly, it is characterized by 
> repetition of the ideophonic stem/morpheme, slowly at first, then with 
> increasing speed, like a bouncing ball coming to a stop.
> Ideophones are of course often characterized by repetition 
> (reduplication, retriplication) and by unusual prosody, but I am 
> interested in published sources or other cases you know of where there 
> is a larger fixed prosodic or intonational template that different 
> ideophones can be slotted into and whether any meaning is associated 
> with it.
> Many thanks,
> Laura
> Laura McPherson
> Assistant Professor of Linguistics
> Dartmouth College
> _______________________________________________
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> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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