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VMs: Re: Paradigms Regained

14/10/02 04:56:19, Rene Zandbergen <r_zandbergen@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

>(now why do I have this hunch that someone on
>the list will soon provide us with a sample
>language that has exactly this feature :-/)

Oh well, since you asked for it... 

>Indeed. But how many tones should one allow as
>a maximum? I think I heard of nine tones in some
>context or other, but not in one single language.

Yes. Cantonese. Eight or nine tones depending how
you count them. I have come across mentions of
languages with more (12? 18?), but that was long
before VMs days (I mean, Net VMs), and that did
not strike me as weird at all (unlike Piraha),
so I made no mental note of it.

>A problem is that there are many
>words that do not end in:
>> ain aiin aiiin,
>> ey, eey, eeey.
>so what to do with these?

Oh, very simple. Vietnamese has six tones. But
only two in syllables ending with an oral stop.
Likewise Mandarin used to have five tones.
The fifth actually being a glottal stop ending
the syllable (and this glottal stop what the
remnant of a final p, t, or k -- which you still
have in Cantonese). So, at a slightly earlier
stage, syllables ending in p, t, and k, had
no distinctive tone. (In Cantonese they have,
but only _two_ tones, like in Vietnamese.
Copycats? Very likely).

>To make matters worse, the one language I know
>(Thai) that actually uses symbols (graphemes?) to 
>indicate tones

And those symbols are actually superscript digits!

> doesn't use one symbol to indicate
>one tone, another to indicate another, but rather
>symbols that make a somewhat complicated modification
>of the default tone that follows a really complicated

It has to do with the initial consonant. There are 
two parallel sets. There no difference of pronunciation
for the consonant itself, but there is for the tone
of the vowel following. Khmer is similar, except
the difference is in the pronunciation of the
following vowel. It as if upper and lowercase
were significant in English and affected the pronunciation
of the following vowel, e.g.

"got" as in "got"


"Got" as in "goat"

Think of it as if Russian had two sets of 
consonants, one palatalized, the other not.

>And this set of rules was designed by one
>man in the 13th Century. It was probably a bit more
>logical then

It almost certainly reflected the 13th-century pronunciation.