Coda constraints on tone

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In many languages tonal contrasts are restricted on closed syllables ending in a stop (CVT). Such “stopped” tones, which are found most widely in East and Southeast Asia, have been interpreted in three different ways in the literature: (i) a single system approach: the tone(s) on stopped syllables are a subset of the tones contrasting on “smooth” syllables, which end in a sonorant; (ii) a two-system approach: the tone(s) on stopped syllables form a separate tonal subsystem distinct from the tones on smooth syllables; (iii) an extrasystemic approach: in cases where only one tone is allowed on stopped syllables, CVT is interpreted as toneless, i.e. outside the tone system proper. Drawing on languages from the Kuki-Chin subbranch of Tibeto-Burman, I argue that wherever disambiguating evidence is available, the subset interpretation is the correct approach.


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