In Tonal Languages, Pitch Has Meaning

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.

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Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Tonal language speakers don't rely on specific notes, but rather pay attention to changes in pitch. (0:31)

  • 2

    In Mandarin, one syllable can be pronounced in four different contour tones. (1:35)

  • 3

    Register and contour tones are applied to vowels in speech. (2:09)

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