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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The vast majority of African languages are tonal, and they have played a major role in the formation of theories of tone, especially since the advent of autosegmental tonology. Spread and shift of tone, floating tones and tone melodies, and downstep are well-documented properties of African tone, manifesting the fact that tones owe little allegiance to the segments realizing them. There is considerable diversity in the typology of African tone systems, with some languages attesting six distinctive pitch levels or having three-element contours on a syllable-by-syllable basis, and others sparsely specified for tone, resembling so-called pitch-accent systems. Numerous languages employ abstract tone patterns in meaningful ways, often marking tense with particular arrangements of the basic tone levels in the language. This chapter surveys the main features of tone in the languages of Africa.

Keywords: tone, floating tone, tone melody, downstep, tone level, contour

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