[Lingtyp] Inherently toneless morphemes in tone languages

Ratanon Jiamsundutsadee RatanonJ at outlook.com
Tue Aug 24 12:39:29 UTC 2021

Dear all,

Is anyone familiar with tone languages which are analyzed to have "toneless" morphemes, i.e. not specified for tone in the underlying representation?

For example, some final particles in Thai have been analyzed to be inherently toneless, exhibiting their surface pitch contour only due to their linkage to intonational-phrase-final boundary tones.

(1) rāw  cʰɔ̂ɔp  tàw    kʰa-L%
     1SG like     turtle  FP
     'I like turtles.' (/kʰa/ = formal, female speaking)

(2) nâarák máj   kʰa-H%
      cute     FP    FP
     'Aren't they cute?' (/máj/ = neutral interrogative; /kʰa/ = formal, female speaking)

Traditionally, /kʰá/ and /kʰâ~kʰà/ would be treated as fully specified for tone and distinct from each other. So far, I have encountered somewhat similar accounts (of certain morphemes, particularly final particles, which are said to be tonally unspecified) in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Kind regards,
Ratanon Jiamsundutsadee
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