World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Tone terracing

Article Id: WHEBN0003203300
Reproduction Date:

Title: Tone terracing  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Downstep, Prosodic unit, Tone (linguistics), Terrace, Vowel length
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Tone terracing

Tone terracing is a type of phonetic downdrift, where the high or mid tones, but not the low tone, shift downward in pitch (downstep) after certain other tones. The result is that a tone may be realized at a certain pitch over a short stretch of speech, shifts downward and then continues at its new level, then shifts downward again, until the end of the prosodic contour is reached, at which point the pitch resets. A graph of the change in pitch over time of a particular tone resembles a terrace.

Since the pitch of the low tone remains more-or-less constant at the lower end of the speaker's vocal range, while the other tones shift downward, the difference in their pitches narrows, eventually obscuring the tones altogether. At this point pitch reset is required if the tone system is to continue functioning.

Tone terracing is particularly common in the languages of West Africa, where typically only the low tone causes downstep. However, a somewhat more intricate system is found in the Twi language of Ghana. Twi has three phonemic tones: high, mid, and low. A word, and therefore a prosodic chunk of speech, may only start with a high tone or a low tone on its first syllable. As in many languages, a low tone starts out and remains at the bottom of the speaker's range. After a low tone, a subsequent high tone is downstepped. (A temporary exception occurs when a single low tone is found between two high tones. In this case the low tone is raised from its base value, but the second high tone is still downstepped, and subsequent low tones return to the base pitch.)

However, a phonetic downstep occurs between any two adjacent mid tones as well. In fact, a high tone is defined as any tone that is at the same pitch as a preceding high or mid tone; a mid tone will always be lower in pitch than a preceding high or mid tone. The result is that every instance of a mid or low tone shifts the upper end of the pitch range downward, until all pitches are reset at the end of the prosodic melody.

Table 1. The phonetic terracing effect in Twi of a series of mid tones. (Twi constrains the first tone to be either high or low.)

(starting range) syllable 1 : syllable 2 : syllable 3 : syllable 4
(high)
 
(mid) mid
mid
mid
(low) low

Table 2. The phonetic terracing effect in Twi of an alternating series of high and mid tones.

(starting range) syllable 1 : syllable 2 : syllable 3 : syllable 4: syllable 5
(high) high
 
(mid) mid high
mid high
(low)

Table 3. The phonetic terracing effect in Twi of an alternating series of high and low tones.

(starting range) syllable 1 : syllable 2 : syllable 3 : syllable 4: syllable 5: syllable 6
(high) high
high
(mid) high
low
(low) low low

From tables 2 and 3 it can be imagined that the tone sequences high-low-high and high-mid-high may be difficult for a non-native speaker to distinguish.

See also

Bibliography

  • J.E. Redden and N. Owusu (1963, 1995). Twi Basic Course. Foreign Service Institute (Hippocrene reprint). ISBN 0-7818-0394-2
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.