In Tonal Languages, Pitch Has Meaning

Tonal languages are prevalent in Asia, Africa, and South America, with Chinese being the most widely-used example. The sounds and sound patterns of a tonal language are sometimes called tonemes, and they can be especially difficult to grasp for someone whose first language is not a tonal one. Tonemes are often denoted in writing with markings above or below letters.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Tonal language speakers don't rely on specific notes, but rather pay attention to changes in pitch. 00:31

  2. In Mandarin, one syllable can be pronounced in four different contour tones. 01:35

  3. Register and contour tones are applied to vowels in speech. 02:09

Written by Curiosity Staff September 14, 2015

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