Phonetic Fieldwork: Working on Tone 2010 Summer School on Documentary Linguistics in West Africa (Intermediate) July 19-July 31 2010
What is tone and why work on it? (1) “A language with tone is one in which an indication of pitch enters into the lexical realization of at least some morphemes” (Hyman 2001: 1368). This definition includes the possibilities of pitch variations being:
What is tone and why work on it? (2) lexically contrastive and/or grammatically contrastive and of there being tonal morphemes and/or toneless syllables
What is tone and why work on it? (3) given the phonemic and grammatical importance of tone, it cannot be ignored in a fieldwork situation any more than one might ignore vowels. a substantial literature exists; the fieldworker should familiarize him/herself with it before undertaking fieldwork.
Importance of training in practical phonetics in doing fieldwork on tone one of the most important prerequisites to doing good fieldwork is to have sufficient training in practical phonetics one needs at least to be able to hear and identify new and unfamiliar sounds, and to have the ability to overcome the phonological filter imposed by one’s own language equally true of both segmental and tonal material
The importance of tone most languages are tonal tone functions at various levels – lexical (phonological) – grammatical (morphological) – pragmatic – deictic
Importance of tone: Lexical tone WordToneGloss ɔ ́b ɔ ́ŋ Hmosquito ɔ b ɔɔ ́ŋ Hchief ɔ ́b ɔ ̀ŋ Lcane Table 1: Contrastive lexical tone in Ibibio
Importance of tone: Lexical tone WordToneGloss baŋ1defensive trench around village 2a type of wild cat (genet?) 3begin 4a wound Table 2: Contrastive lexical tone in Mambila
Importance of tone: grammatical tone Mambila Negation 1. Affirmative mè yı ̄ lá à‘I call her/him.’ 1S call 3S 2. Negative mè à yı́lá ŋ ɡ wé‘I do not call her/him.’ 1S 3S call NEG
Importance of tone: use tone in pragmatic function Efik 1. Verb focus ńdéb ḿm ɔ ́ŋ I’m buying water. 2. Post verb focus ńdèb ḿm ɔ ́ŋ I’m buying water.
Phonetics of tone: Pitch tone associated with variations in fundamental frequency (F0) or pitch F0 is the rate of vibration of the vocal folds – variations can in principle be tonally relevant on any voiced segment (but not all pitch is ‘tone’) pitch is a relative, auditory, characteristic of speech; a given sound is higher or lower in pitch than another sound, rather than high or low in absolute terms
Relative nature of pitch men and women and children have, in general, lower and higher pitched voices respectively within each group there are individual differences a given individual may have a higher or lower pitch range than another, and a person’s pitch range may vary under different circumstances such differences are generally not important in a fieldwork situation; they are normalized in the speech perception process
Variable nature of pitch a given speaker may use a different pitch range on different occasions, or even within the same ‘occasion’, e.g. an elicitation session various paralinguistic or external influences may trigger such variation some aspects of pitch variation are potentially problematic in doing field work … one particular problematic area is that intonation is also produced mainly with pitch variations, which may perturb tone realizations
Importance of working with several speakers the problems associated with the relative and variable nature of tone demand that one works with several different speakers; – comparing across speakers allows us to extract the common pattern in cases of variability
Pitch and microprosody (1) pitch is analyzed as separate from the segmental stream – it is not a feature of the vowel or consonant which carries it – but it is not unaffected by segmental features consonants on either side of the vowel have a perturbing effect on F0. – voiceless obstruents tend to increase F0 – voiced obstruents lower it nasals and laterals (and other sonorants), have little effect on F0
Pitch and microprosody (2) vowels also have an influence on F0, known as intrinsic vowel – high vowels have a higher F0 than low vowels, ceterus paribus these factors may have an influence on how tones are perceived and identified
Phonetics of tone: Duration duration may be relevant to tonal distinctions – contour tones may be longer than level tones – they are typically comprised of two or more level tones duration may therefore serve as a secondary cue for tone few studies have reported durational differences associated with tone in African languages
Phonetics of tone: Amplitude amplitude may be relevant to tonal contrasts amplitude pertains to the loudness of a given sound relative to neighbouring sounds so (hypothetically) a given tone may be louder (or quieter) than other tones in the inventory there is a known relationship between pitch and loudness little research done on this, especially regarding the languages of Africa
Phonetics of tone: Phonation type phonation type (or voice quality) refers to the mode of vibration of the vocal folds well known contributor to tone contrasts in SE Asian languages, e.g. Vietnamese (creaky voice associated with low tone) rarely shown to contribute to tone in African languages, though little research has gone so far as to even consider the possibility
Eliciting tone: Preliminaries (1) bound together with eliciting other material, principally through lexical eliciation we elicit wordlists of basic vocabulary; segmental material is transcribed; indication of pitch variations needs to be included so, to transcribe tone, one must first be aware of the need to transcribe it (see above)
Eliciting tone: Preliminaries (2) field work manuals suggest having the informant or language assistant whistle the pitch pattern of the word or phrase being elicited, as an aid to hearing the pitch changes in the absence of distracting segmental material – but not everyone can whistle well, and it is harder – for many people – to accurately reproduce pitch differences so, humming is often preferable – everyone can hum – it involves using the vocal folds (F0) to create pitch
Eliciting tone: Preliminaries (3) even single words pronounced in isolation (as in wordlist elicitation) constitute an utterance or phrase so may carry pitch features associated with utterances as opposed or in addition to those of words therefore it is important to work with longer stretches of speech in addition to ‘isolated’ forms – this allows the target word to be placed in different contexts
Eliciting tone: Preliminaries (4) the relative nature of pitch means eliciting isolated words (as in a wordlist) may lead to difficulties identifying tone it difficult to know which tone indicates a given meaning when words are given in isolation e.g. in Mambila, baŋ has four meanings, identified by one of four level tones – but heard in isolation it may be difficult to distinguish one tone from another
Eliciting tone: using a frame one means solve this problem to is to use a constant frame, with elicited words embedded in this frame e.g. in Mambila, the plural marker is bɔ̀, i.e. always with a L tone so, combining countable nouns with PL allows one to establish tone height relative to L: bɔ̀ bàŋ ‘a wound’ bɔ̀ bāŋ ‘genets’ bɔ̀ báŋ ‘defensive trenches ’
Eliciting tone: using a frame using a longer frame, where the target word can be inserted in the middle may be more desirable, but may not be possible very early in the research e.g. in Mambila, the sentence ‘say ___ quickly’ is pronounced entirely on tone one (High), so target words can be inserted in the blank: túé ____ wáɡá chén
Eliciting tone: alternating word sequences the problem of phrase level effects can be solved by using sentences where the target word can be heard at different places within the phrase; or more simply, by stringing together different tone combinations in different sequences, e.g: bàŋ, bāŋ, baŋ, báŋ; báŋ, bàŋ, bāŋ, baŋ; báŋ, baŋ, bāŋ bàŋ; E TC.
How many tone contrasts in a language? (1) the number of contrasts is first and foremost a phonological problem which may not be completely solved in the field as with segmental material there is no guarantee one will find minimal sets to illustrate the entire tone inventory – especially if it is a relatively large one as found in Mambila
How many tone contrasts? (2) Hyman’s definition of a tone language indicates some syllables/words may be inherently toneless the verbs of many Edoid languages, for example, are inherently toneless in such languages tone may be found to play a larger role at the morphological or grammatical level than lexically.
How many tone contrasts? (3) Levels vs contours a question for phonology, which again may or may not be solved in the field traditionally, African languages have been known as ‘register’ tone languages; i.e. the tonal targets are different pitch heights and tones are typically level contours that exist on the surface are combinations of tones of different levels nonetheless at some stage in the investigation the underlying nature of the levels must be established
Recording tone the basic principles followed in recording tone are the same as those used in recording other speech samples to be included in a documentation: aim for the best quality possible such recordings are at least dual purpose 1.to provide representative samples for documenting/archiving 2.to provide data suitable for instrumental analysis – whether or not the fieldworker him/herself intends to do such work.
Experimental fieldwork on tone experimental phonetics and phonology on tone may be done after the basics of the tone system has been established experimental work typically uses between five and ten speakers, though ideally more: ten speakers, balanced for gender, age and other possible intervening factors when working with endangered languages, it is often not possible to have a neatly balanced speaker pool
Speech materials for experimental work Speech materials used must take both of the purposes mentioned into account an important consideration in developing speech materials for investigating tone is to control for microprosodic effects e.g. the perturbations of F0 created at the consonant- vowel interfaces, which are most severe with voiceless obstruents, and may be avoided, largely if not totally, by using words containing nasals and laterals when possible.
Tone research in speech production and perception research production on tone production (and pitch realization generally) allows us to establish the physical factors that may govern tone production such research should be combined with investigation into speech perception, to determine the relative perceptual saliency of these physical factors (see e.g. Connell 2001, Ding 2007, Hombert (1988)
Some research issues with tone and pitch realization establishing the contribution of the different phonetic features which may contribute to tone determining the relative contribution of tone and other pitch based phenomena to the overall pitch contour of an utterance the phonetic (and phonological) effect of automatic vs non- automatic downstep the contribution of tone and other pitch based phenomena in distinguishing questions and statements
Some experimental paradigms in investigating tone and pitch using prompts: speakers read prepared material role play: speakers interrogate/respond to each other map task experiments perception experiments: hearers identify representatives of different tones
Documenting/Archiving tone material Little has been said in the literature on language documentation as to what should be included in a documentation with respect to tone material, or how how such material should be prepared/presented – Himmelmann (2006), Himmelmann & Ladd (2008) while dealing with prosody in documentation and in fieldwork respectively, essentially skirt the issue of tone
Documenting/Archiving tone material open to discussion, but … certainly recordings, from more than one speaker representative samples of all contrastive tones and permissible combinations of tones in the language annotated audio files (e.g. in praat) – with waveform and/or spectrogram, pitch trace, annotation tiers
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