[Lingtyp] word for "pitch" in languages across the world

John Du Bois dubois at ucsb.edu
Mon Mar 8 07:17:01 UTC 2021

Ethnomusicologists know something about this issue, so that could be a
place to look.

For example, some African languages (sorry, I know that's vague, my
ethnomusicology studies were a long time ago) use 'big' as a metaphor for
'low pitch' and 'small' for 'high pitch', with an obvious physical
grounding. Of course 'pitch' itself can be seen as an abstraction from such
particularities. This raises the question, do such languages use 'size' as
a metaphor for (variable) 'pitch'?

John W. Du Bois
Professor of Linguistics
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California 93106
dubois at ucsb.edu

On Mon, Mar 8, 2021, 3:36 AM Maia Ponsonnet <maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au>

> Hello, Another aspect of the question is, if a language has a word for
> 'pitch', how likely is a linguist to identify it in the course of language
> documentation/description?
> In Dalabon (Australia) I have encountered instances of the word for
> '(crown of) head' (*kodj-no*) that I could never fully make sense of. So
> far my best hypothesis is that they would translate as 'pitch', but I never
> got a chance to get to the bottom of it.
> Cheers all, Maïa
> Dr Maïa Ponsonnet
> Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Linguistics
> Graduate Research Coordinator, School of Social Sciences
> Building M257, Room 2.36
> Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education
> The University of Western Australia
> 35 Stirling Hwy, Perth, WA (6009), Australia
> P.  +61 (0) 8 6488 2870 - M.  +61 (0) 468 571 030
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of
> Adam James Ross Tallman <ajrtallman at utexas.edu>
> *Sent:* Monday, 8 March 2021 2:05 AM
> *To:* LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org <LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org
> >
> *Subject:* [Lingtyp] word for "pitch" in languages across the world
> Hello everyone,
> I'm wondering how many languages across the world have a word for "pitch".
> In a meeting the Chacobo once offered a novel word which roughly translated
> to 'speech's song', joi᷄ quëquëti᷄  but it likely wouldn't be understood
> without explanation(as far as I know!) and it's obviously not lexicalized.
> I'm wondering what cultures/languages have lexicalized this notion?
> best,
> p.s. You probably don't have to respond to this if you are going to tell
> me that some Standard-Average-European language (for example) has a
> lexicalized word for pitch. Unless you can tell me something about how the
> notion may have arisen historically.
> Adam
> --
> Adam J.R. Tallman
> Post-doctoral Researcher
> Friedrich Schiller Universität
> Department of English Studies
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