Perception of Syntagmatic Tone Intervals in Ìgbò and Yorùbá

Aaron Carter-Ényi, Quintina Carter-Ényi

This paper revisits the syntagmatic model of tone to see what perception has to say. We asked the question: Is word identification possible based on syntagmatic (relative) pitch information? Listeners were asked to identify words from a minimal pair without the context necessary for making paradigmatic (associative) judgments. 1409 Nigerian university students, staff and faculty responded to one of two parallel studies, one for Ìgbò and one for Yorùbá. The results suggest that word identification is closely tied to STI direction (+ 0 –) in Niger-Congo A tone languages. There is also evidence for a cross-language minimum STI distance of +1 or –2 semitones to leave a tone level and enter an adjacent tone level. Word identification based on STI magnitude alone (e.g. HM v. HL) is weaker. Paradigmatic features may be needed to differentiate homophones with HM and HL tone. This is consistent with recent findings by other researchers outside of the context of tone languages that suggest perceiving direction is automatic while judging magnitude is a higher level process [16]. In general, judging unidimensional magnitude is hard [17].

DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2016-23

Cite as

Carter-Ényi, A., Carter-Ényi, Q. (2016) Perception of Syntagmatic Tone Intervals in Ìgbò and Yorùbá. Proc. Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016, 107-110.

author={Aaron Carter-Ényi and Quintina Carter-Ényi},
title={Perception of Syntagmatic Tone Intervals in Ìgbò and Yorùbá},
booktitle={Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016},