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Conference Papers Year : 2008

Tones and intonation: some current challenges


It is well established that lexical tones and intonation are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, the presence or absence of lexical tones in a language does not by itself constitute a fundamental typological divide for intonation systems. Two dimensions of typological diversity are brought out: (i) concerning lexical tone systems, it is suggested that the analysis of contour tones into sequences of levels, which has clearly demonstrated its validity for numerous languages, does not actually apply to all; (ii) concerning intonation systems, it is suggested that languages differ in whether – and to what extent – they have ‘intonational tones', i.e. tones of intonational origin that are structurally similar to lexical tones. ‘Intonational tones' strictly speaking appear to be relatively rare.
A hypothesis is set out concerning the relationship between the nature of the lexical tone system of a language and that of its intonation system: it is suggested that the encoding of intonational phenomena in terms of tones tends to thrive in languages that have a lexical system of level tones – by a process of tonal reinterpretation of intonation –whereas languages that have non-decomposable contour tones tend not to have tonal intonation.



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Dates and versions

halshs-00325982 , version 1 (28-10-2008)
halshs-00325982 , version 2 (06-11-2014)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00325982 , version 2


Alexis Michaud. Tones and intonation: some current challenges. 8th International Seminar on Speech Production (ISSP'08), Rudolph Sock, Susanne Fuchs & Yves Laprie, Dec 2008, Strasbourg, France, Dec. 8th-12th, 2008, France. pp. 13-18. ⟨halshs-00325982v2⟩
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