Akinbiyi Akinlabi (Rutgers) presents:
On Five-Level Tone Systems: the case of DAN
How many pitch levels can be used contrastively in a single human language? The central goal of this research is to show that no language utilizes more than four level tones contrastively (from low to high). A language may combine levels pitches and pitch contours, and a language may contrast both, but no language has more than four levels. Empirically, Dan-Gblewo (Ivory Coast) has been cited over and over, as the classic example of a West African language with five level tones (Bearth and Zemp 1967, Flik 1977, Vydrin and Mongnan 2008, Gondo 2014, and Odden, ms.) Taking a leaf from the division of three-level tone systems into those that contrast High, Mid and Low (Yoruba) on the one hand, and High, Downstepped-High and Low (Efik, Akan) on the other, we argue that DAN operates a Four-level-plus-Creak system. We show that DAN must be so analyzed from both the empirical and theoretical perspectives. This calls for new phonetic investigations of languages like Gimira (Benchnon, Northern Omotic), Shidong (Tai-Kadai, China) which are said to have five level tones, and Chori (Niger Congo, Nigeria), which is said to have six distinct “level” tones.
All are welcome!
Refreshments to follow in room 7400