[Lingtyp] Multidimensional transcription of tones

Adam James Ross Tallman ajrtallman at utexas.edu
Mon Sep 27 09:51:52 UTC 2021

Dear Ian,

I think even with distinctive features, there could be some doubt about
whether the symbols used by linguists are "cross-linguistically unified"
... See Mielke's



On Mon, Sep 27, 2021 at 4:39 AM JOO, Ian [Student] <ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk>

> 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,
> Ian
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Adam J.R. Tallman
Post-doctoral Researcher
Friedrich Schiller Universität
Department of English Studies
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