Functional trade-off between lexical tone and intonation: Typological evidence from polar-question marking
Torreira, F., Roberts, S. G., & Hammarström, H.
Functional trade-off between lexical tone and intonation: Typological evidence from polar-question marking. In C. Gussenhoven, Y. Chen, & D. Dediu (Eds.
), Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Language
Tone languages are often reported to make use of utterancelevel
intonation as well as of lexical tone. We test the
alternative hypotheses that a) the coexistence of lexical tone
and utterance-level intonation in tone languages results in a
diminished functional load for intonation, and b) that lexical
tone and intonation can coexist in tone languages without
undermining each other’s functional load in a substantial way.
In order to do this, we collected data from two large
typological databases, and performed mixed-effects and
phylogenetic regression analyses controlling for genealogical
and areal factors to estimate the probability of a language
exhibiting grammatical devices for encoding polar questions
given its status as a tonal or an intonation-only language. Our
analyses indicate that, while both tone and intonational
languages tend to develop grammatical devices for marking
polar questions above chance level, tone languages do this at a
significantly higher frequency, with estimated probabilities
ranging between 0.88 and .98. This statistical bias provides
cross-linguistic empirical support to the view that the use of
tonal features to mark lexical contrasts leads to a diminished
functional load for utterance-level intonation.
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