[Lingtyp] Multidimensional transcription of tones

JOO, Ian [Student] ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk
Mon Sep 27 02:38:50 UTC 2021

Dear typologists,

I was wondering why there isn’t a multidimensional way of transcribing tones, like how we transcribe segmental phonemes.
For example, the transcription of the voiced bilabial stop (/b/) is based on multiple dimensions of phonological features, such as [+voiced, +labial, -nasal].
But why are tones transcribed based on pitch only, such as Chao numbers (35), tone letters (˦˥), tone diacritics (´`¯ˆˇ), or capital letters (HMLRF), and not encoding other cues, like creakiness, length, tenseness, and intensity, when these cues may be just as distinctive as pitch is?
In other words, why is there no such cross-linguistically unified symbol as to describe the [-long, +creaky, +loud, +high, +falling, +tense] tone of Burmese, when there is a cross-linguistically unified symbol to describe the [+voiced, +labial, -nasal] consonant of Burmese?
I would like to know why this is the case.

From Hong Kong,


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