[Lingtyp] Inherently toneless morphemes in tone languages

Larry M. HYMAN hyman at berkeley.edu
Tue Aug 24 17:00:22 UTC 2021

I don't think I have ever worked on a tone language that doesn't have at
least some "toneless morphemes", by which is meant that a morpheme (whether
lexical, like verbs in Edoid and many Bantu languages, or grammatical)
imposes no tonal properties of its own, rather gets its tonal realization
from surrounding morphemes, grammatical assignments, and/or
boundary/intonational features. Wm. E. Welmers originally brought attention
to this possibility in his definition of a "tone language" as one "in which
both pitch phonemes [read: features] and segmental phonemes enter into the
composition of at least some morphemes’ (Welmers 1959: 2; 1973: 80).  Within
suprasegmental/autosegmental phonology this was followed by Will Leben and
John Goldsmith who discussed the two toneless postpositions of Mende (a
Mande language) which get their tone from the preceding noun. Here's from a
handout of mine, also showing a sentence with a toneless noun and a
toneless verb in Somali:

[image: image.png]

On Tue, Aug 24, 2021 at 5:39 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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> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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Larry M. Hyman, Professor of Linguistics & Director, France-Berkeley Fund
University of California, Berkeley
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