ERIC Number: EJ858644
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
How (Not) to Do Phonological Typology: The Case of Pitch-Accent
Hyman, Larry M.
Language Sciences, v31 n2-3 p213-238 Mar-May 2009
In this paper I argue for a property-driven approach to phonological typology. Rather than seeking to classify or label languages, the central goal of phonological typology is to determine how different languages systematize the phonetic substance available to all languages. The paper focuses on a very murky area in phonological typology, word-prosodic systems. While there is agreement that certain properties converge to characterize two prosodic prototypes, tone and stress, the term "pitch-accent" is frequently adopted to refer to a defective tone system whose tone is obligatory, culminative, privative, metrical, and/or restricted in distribution. Drawing from a database of ca. 600 tone systems, I show that none of these properties is found in all systems claimed to be accentual and that all five are amply attested in canonical tone systems. Since all one can say is that alleged pitch-accent systems exhibit significant constraints on the distribution of their tonal contrasts, they do not constitute a coherent prosodic "type". Rather, alleged "pitch-accent" systems freely pick-and-choose properties from the tone and stress prototypes, producing mixed, ambiguous, and sometimes analytically indeterminate systems which appear to be "intermediate". There thus is no pitch-accent prototype, nor can prosodic systems be treated as a continuum placed along a single linear dimension. The paper concludes that the goal of prosodic typology should not be to classify languages, but rather the properties of their subsystems.
Descriptors: Tone Languages, Language Classification, Phonology, Phonetics, Pronunciation, Databases, Intonation
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
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