Volume 25, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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This paper presents results of a survey of contour tones in 105 languages with lexical tone. Results indicate an implicational hierarchy of tone bearing ability, whereby long vowels are most likely to carry contour tones, followed by syllables containing a short vowel plus a sonorant coda, followed by syllables containing a short vowel plus an obstruent coda, followed by open syllables containing a short vowel. It is claimed that this tonal hierarchy is phonetically motivated: syllable types which are phonetically better suited to carrying tonal information are more likely to support contour tones. Languages whose tone distributions superficially appear to fall outside the range of variation predicted on phonetic grounds are demonstrated, upon closer examination, to be unexceptional in their behavior.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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