Separating intonation from tone

Project: Research

Layman's description

Both utterance intonation and lexical tones are conveyed by same medium, differences in tone. How to separate these two i languages with lexical tones,as e.g. Chinese? Kammu, a minority language in Northern Laos,has dialects without lexical tones and dialects that have developed tones. This is the only difference between these dialects, which makes Kammu to a unique prosodic languagelaboratory.

All languages use intonation (pitch height differences) to express what the speaker regards as the most important information (focussing), to show how the speech stream is divided into smaller units (phrasing) and to show the type of an utterance (e.g. if it is a question). In languages like Chinese, pitch differences (lexical tones) are used to distinguish different words as well, making it more difficult to use intonation for focussing and phrasing.

For this reason, separating phrase intonation from lexical tones in a tone language is a complicated problem, and an additional difficulty when comparing the intonation of a tonal and a non-tonal language is that different languages have different grammatical structures, which also have an effect on the intonation. To avoid this difficulty we will study a language where some dialects have lexical tones, and others do not, while there are only minimal grammatical differences between the dialects. One of very few languages where this is possible is Kammu, a minority language spoken in Northern Laos. An investigation of the intonation in this language will be an important contribution to the general theory of intonation in languages of different types.

A language material has been recorded in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Effective start/end date2007/01/012010/12/31