[Lingtyp] Inherently toneless morphemes in tone languages

Adam James Ross Tallman ajrtallman at utexas.edu
Tue Aug 24 16:16:32 UTC 2021

Dear Ratanon,

My understanding is that for Beijing Mandarin, some have interpreted the
'neutral tone' as being toneless and have also assumed that intonational
tones can map over toneless 'particles' (Yip 1980
<https://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/15971>, Shih 1997
<https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783110822014.81/html>, Peng
et al. 2005

In general though, I thought the phenomena of toneless syllables (and
therefore morphemes) was supposed to be extremely common for sparser tone
systems. For instance, in Chacobo, I've assumed it's a privative tone
system (H or unmarked), where syllables are either marked with H or not.
Toneless syllables and toneless morphemes are prolific.

All of this only makes sense under an autosegmental interpretation of tonal
specification. For advocates of the PENTA
model every syllable must be marked with a pitch specification - apparent
counterexamples are the result of some type of articulatory undershoot. So
maybe our tendency to posit `toneless syllables' shouldn't be regarded as
some theory neutral descriptive fact (as this discussion assumes), but
rather, as the consequence of the dominance or hegemony of the
autosegmental approach to tone / intonation.



On Tue, Aug 24, 2021 at 5:52 PM David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:

> Dear Ratanon and all,
> Oddly, some non-tonal languages of Southeast Asia seem to exhibit a
> mirror-image pattern to the one you describe; there it seems as though the
> sentence-final particles are the only forms that ARE tonal, though whether
> this is really lexical tone as opposed to intonation remains an open
> question. This has been argued for Singlish (colloquial Singaporean
> English), and I think could plausibly also be argued for some varieties of
> Malay.
> I suspect that some languages of the Sough Halmahera West New Guinea
> subgroup of Austronesian might also fit the bill, albeit in different
> ways.  For Moor, David Kamholz has argued that lexical tone only shows up
> on the final syllable of the phonological phrase, all other syllables
> remaining toneless.  And for Roon, I have described a tonal distinction in
> a single inflectional paradigm involving inalienable possession, while all
> the rest of the language, way over 99% of it, lacks lexical tone.
> All of the above examples are thus perhaps more appropriately described as
> "inherently tonal morphemes in non-tone languages" ...
> David
> On 24/08/2021 15:39, Ratanon Jiamsundutsadee 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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> --
> David Gil
> Senior Scientist (Associate)
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
> Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany
> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
> Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81344082091
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Adam J.R. Tallman
Post-doctoral Researcher
Friedrich Schiller Universität
Department of English Studies
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