[Lingtyp] Inherently toneless morphemes in tone languages

Ian Maddieson ianm at berkeley.edu
Wed Aug 25 03:09:17 UTC 2021

Another type of toneless morpheme would those that have no inherent tone because they take a tone opposite to some
tone in the environment. One example would be Hausa ‘copulas’ -ce and -ne, which always have the opposite tone to 
the syllable they follow, hence no inherent tone of their own.


> On Aug 24, 2021, at 06:39, 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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Ian Maddieson

Department of Linguistics
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131-0001

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