The 4th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages

Nijmegen, The Netherlands
May 13-16, 2014

Lexical Tones in Sylheti

Amalesh Gope, Shakuntala Mahanta

Phonetics and Phonology Lab, Department of HSS, IIT Guwahati, India

In this paper we examine the status of lexical tones in Sylheti. Sylheti is generally considered to be one of the varieties of Bangla (belonging to the Indo-Aryan language family). The consonant inventory of Sylheti has undergone significant reduction and restructuring, and lost all the aspirated stops due to obstruent weakening ([bhai>bai] "brother", [lathi> lati] "kick") and spirantization of the underlying voiceless bilabial stop (both aspirated and unaspirated) [p] and [ph] ([por] > [ɸɔr] "read, [phul] > [ɸul] "flower) and voiceless velar stop (both aspirated and unaspirated) [k] and [kh] ([kali] > [xali] "ink", [ [khal > xal] "drain/channel"). These processes gave birth to numerous homophones. Eight native speakers of Sylheti participated in a production experiment which recorded their utterances of 60 homophonous words (in a carrier sentence). However, in this paper we have concentrated only on the tonal properties of 24 monosyllabic words. The results show that the loss of breathy voice contrast and spirantization is compensated with a higher F0 in the adjacent vowels. The result of one-way ANOVA shows a highly significant effect of tone on F0 (measured at various points such as F0 at vowel mid-point (measured in Mel) p<0.05, [F(1, 414)=67.06, p=0.00)], max pitch (measured in Mel) p<0.05, [F(1, 414)=26.21, p=0.00], min pitch (measured in Mel) p<0.05, [F(1, 414)=40.83, p=0.00], average pitch (in Mel) p<0.05, [F(1, 414)=48.18, p=0.00].

Index Terms: Sylheti, [+spread glottis], spirantization, homophone, tone, tonogenesis, production, perception.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Gope, Amalesh / Mahanta, Shakuntala (2014): "Lexical tones in Sylheti", In TAL-2014, 10-14.