[Lingtyp] tone alone marking plural nouns?

Tianqiao Lu lutianqiao at maonan.org
Wed Sep 27 04:38:29 UTC 2017

Some Cantonese dialects in southeastern China have such distinction in personal pronouns and a few demonstratives: 

    Heshan dialect: 
ngo33 (1sg) vs. ngo21 (1pl)
nai33 (2sg) vs. nai21 (2pl)
kui33 (3sg) vs. kui21 (3pl)

    Taishan dialect:
ngoi33 (1sg) vs. ngoi21 (1pl)
ni33 (2sg) vs. niεk21 (2pl)
khui33 (3sg) vs. khiεk21 (3pl) 

    Taishan dialect also shows such tonal inflection in demonstratives. 
khoi21 (this) vs. khoi215 (here)
nen21 (that) vs. nen215 (there)
nai21 (which) vs. nai215 (where)

    More information for your reference: in many Sinitic languages, tonal inflection is also found in conversion between noun and verb or noun and adjective, etc.

Tianqiao Lu
School of Linguistic Sciences
Jiangsu Normal University

------------------ Original ------------------
From:  "Mike Cahill"<mike_cahill at sil.org>;
Date:  Wed, Sep 27, 2017 05:39 AM
To:  "LINGTYP"<LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org>; 

Subject:  [Lingtyp] tone alone marking plural nouns?


Hi all,


Starting with some research on marking tone in African orthographies, I’ve come across 37 languages that mark the singular and plural distinction of at least some of their nouns solely by tone. Interestingly, in about 2/3 of these so far, the plural has some sort of higher tone than the singular. 


I’m looking for other examples of the same thing, particularly non-African. Wayne Leman sent me some Cheyenne examples. In Cheyenne, there seems no consistent pattern of either raising or lowering the tone of the plural – it’s all over the place. 


I’m hoping some of you know of other languages that do this kind of thing. Of course, I’m not averse to hearing about African languages – it may be quite possible you know of a language I don’t have on my list yet. Please copy me directly (mike_cahill at sil.org) as well as the list!


Mike Cahill



Dr. Michael Cahill

Orthography Services Coordinator, SIL International 

7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.

Dallas, TX 75236


email: mike_cahill at sil.org

phone: 972-708-7632

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