Perception of Lexical Tones in Sylheti

Amalesh Gope, Shakuntala Mahanta

Tone as a phonological category is capable of distinguishing the meanings of two lexical words by varying the pitch height and/or contour differences. In a tone language, it is indispensable for a hearer to perceive the f0 fluctuations (and the phonetic and phonological properties) associated with distinct speech signals that distinguish the lexical meanings (Yip 2004, Francis et. al 2003). To qualify as distinct tones, speech signals of (contrasting) words (with distinct tonal property, viz., high and low) must contain large enough f0 fluctuations between them so that the hearer can use the pitch difference as a cue to distinguish the lexical meanings (viz., high and low). This paper investigates the process of tone perception in Sylheti. A series of historical developments such as the loss of breathy voice contrasts, spirantization and deaffrication predominantly led to a high tone in Sylheti ([dáx 'drum' [dh>d], [dàx 'roar/call') (Gope & Mahanta, 2015, 2014). The results indicate that the Sylheti speakers by and large rely on f0 fluctuation in identifying the contrastive tones. Further, the trend of perception of contrastive tones also suggest that tones in Sylheti is perceived (mostly) in categorical manner.

DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2016-31

Cite as

Gope, A., Mahanta, S. (2016) Perception of Lexical Tones in Sylheti. Proc. Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016, 142-146.

author={Amalesh Gope and Shakuntala Mahanta},
title={Perception of Lexical Tones in Sylheti},
booktitle={Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016},