[Lingtyp] Inherently toneless morphemes in tone languages

Randy LaPolla randy.lapolla at gmail.com
Tue Aug 24 13:24:57 UTC 2021

I can second Kristine’s comment, and just mention it isn’t only final syllables, but also the initial syllable in many languages with iambic prosody and frequent sesquisyllabic structure, e.g. Rvwáng, a language of northern Myanmar, where the v represents a reduced toneless vowel. 


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> On 24 Aug 2021, at 9:10 PM, Kristine Hildebrandt <khildeb at siue.edu> wrote:
> Hi,
> I think a number of Tibeto-Burman languages are like this. In many languages that have tone (not all are tonal), some grammatical morphemes are described as underlyingly not specified for tone, and they inherit pitch properties based on the root/stem morphemes to which they are grammatically and prosodically bound. In languages that I document (Tamangic), this is the case for many (but not all) inflectional and derivational affixes, for example, and for the negative prefix. There are, however, exceptions.
>> On Tue, Aug 24, 2021 at 7:39 AM Ratanon Jiamsundutsadee <RatanonJ at outlook.com> wrote:
>> 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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> Kristine Hildebrandt
> https://namedrop.io/kristineahildebrandt
> Professor, English Language & Literature
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> Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
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