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The areal properties of tone in the Mackenzie Basin Dene (Athabaskan) languages

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Title: The areal properties of tone in the Mackenzie Basin Dene (Athabaskan) languages
Authors: McDonough, Joyce
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2013
Description: As part of a study of the areal properties of the phonetic structures of the Mackenzie Basin Dene (Athabaskan) languages and dialects, this talk examines the realization of tone in several of these language communities which constitute an important group for which, until recently, little phonetic documentation has been available. Despite their impressive geographic spread, these languages are known to be phonetically and morphologically conservative (Sapir 1945): they share a surprisingly consistent phonemic inventory, phonetic realization patterns, and a morphological structure well known for its complexity.

There are several reasons why areal properties of tone in this group are of interest. First, these are consonantal languages, the inventories are obstruent heavy, with several laryngeal consonants, including ejectives and glottal stops. The sonorant inventory is quite small. The pitch contour is broken constrained to the often reduced vowels, contrary to what we find in other tone language groups. Second, the distinction between paradigmatic (grammatical) and lexical tone is not transparent. Third, tonogenesis, arguably resulting from the incorporation of glottal suffixes into the word-final stem, in a random way produced both H and L tone, even between neighboring daughter languages. This tonal reversal cannot be linked to a single historical change. Thus the documentation of this type tone reversal within a closely related group with near identical tonongenesis patterns is important to theories of tone and language change. Fourth, plausibly the contrast between constricted and non-constricted stem vowels resulted from the incorporation of glottal suffixes, preceding the development of stem tonal contrasts; constriction may have effected the development of tone contrasts in the pre-stem domain, may be related to the reversals via a role in enhancing stem distinctions.

In this talk, we examine tone from 4 communities in the Mackenzie Basin group, with examples of both H and L tone-marked languages (tone reversal), in an instrumental analysis of fieldwork data, in a preliminary analysis of the tone data. The broad goal is to provide a documentation of the pitch typology and variation in this area and its relationship to the theories of Athabaskan tonogenesis, with an instrumental analysis of pitch patterns including pitch range, tone bearing units, peak/valley alignment, tone distribution, and patterns in tone realization between the morphological categories (pre-stem (inflectional) versus stem (content) domains)
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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