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An introduction of Vietnamese tones

VIETNAMESE TONES AND THEIR
FUNCTIONS
Presented by Tran Hong Lam


OUTLINE
The presentation consists of 5 parts:

 The definition of tone
 The origin of Vietnamese tones
 Tonal characteristics
 Distribution rules of Vietnamese tones
 Two main functions of tones in Vietnamese language


The definition of Tone
 Definition: Tone, in linguistics, is a variation in the pitch of the voice while
speaking.

 The word tone is usually applied to those languages (called tone
languages) in which pitch characteristics are used to differentiate one word

from another word that is otherwise identical in its sequence of consonants
and vowels. For example, ”ba” in Vietnamese may mean “father” (ba) or
“grandmother” (bà) or “aunt” (bá) depending on its pitch.

 In tone languages, pitch is a property of words.


The definition of Tone
 There are two main types of tone:

◦ Register-tone, or level-tone (thanh điệu âm vực): they have relatively steady-state


pitches, which differ with regard to being relatively higher or lower. This is
characteristic of many tone languages in West Africa.
Contour-tone (thanh điệu hình tuyến): In contour-tone languages at least some of the
tones must be described in terms of pitch movements, such as rises and falls or more
complex movements such as rise–falls. This is characteristic of many tone languages
of Southeast Asia.


The origin of Vietnamese tones
 The initial period: Toneless language: in its word, there were affixations,
initial consonant clusters, ending consonants articulated at pharynx and
glottis or made in the manner of fricative.
 The beginning of Christian era: 3 tonal contours produced like the
compensation in the syllabic simplification

◦ [-Ɂ] ~ tonal group [sắc + nặng]
◦ [-h] ~ tonal group [ngã+ hỏi]
◦ open phonemes ~ tonal group [sắc + nặng]


The origin of Vietnamese tones
 The period that Vietnamese separated from Muong: words loaned from
Chinese

◦ Chinese words with initial voiceless consonant ~ Vietnamese words with initial
voiceless consonant in high pitch contrasts


◦ Chinese words with initial voiced consonant ~ Vietnamese words with initial voiceless
consonant in low pitch contrasts

◦ →6 tones derived from 3 tonal contours

Name

Sign

Name

Sign

Tone “ngang” - Mid tone

1

Tone “hỏi” -Low-rising tone

4

Tone “huyền” -Low- falling tone

2

Tone “sắc” - High-rising tone

5

Tone “ngã” -High-broken tone

3

Tone “nặng” -Low-broken tone

6


Vietnamese tonal characteristics
 Tune (âm điệu):is characterized by the variance of fundamental acoustic
frequency in the process of pronouncing a syllable.

◦ Leveling (bằng): flat tune or low falling, including tone 1 and 2
◦ Non-leveling (trắc): tune varies in a wide range, namely tone 3, 4, 5, and 6 as
described in fig.1


Vietnamese tonal characteristics

Figure 1. Tonal description
Nguyễn, Văn Lợi; Edmondson, Jerold A (1998), "Tones and voice quality in modern northern Vietnamese:
Instrumental case studies", Mon-Khmer Studies, 28: 1–18


Vietnamese tonal characteristics
 Vocal range/register (âm vực): the average height or pitch of tone in
pronouncing syllables

◦ High vocal range/register (bổng/cao): Tone 1, 3, 5
◦ Low vocal range/register (trầm/thấp): Tone 2, 4, 6

 Strength (cường độ)

◦ Tone 1 and 2 remain flat and weak (lax)
◦ Tone 3, 4, 5, and 6 decrease in strength when producing (tense)

 Length (trường độ)

◦ Short: tone 5 and 6
◦ Long: the remains


Distribution rules of Vietnamese tones
 Distribution in syllable

◦ Words ending with [p, t, c, ch]: tone 5 and 6
◦ Words ending without [p, t, c, ch]: 6 tones

 Distribution in reduplicative words: obeys the rules that the first syllable
must be in the same vocal range with the second syllable

◦ Example: “lanh lảnh” both tones of the1st syllable and 2nd syllable in high vocal range
“bập bềnh” both tones of the1st syllable

range

and 2nd syllable in low vocal


Distribution rules of Vietnamese tones
 Distribution in poetry: In the traditional poetry, tones are distributed
following the rules:

◦ The tonic of the previous line of a poem and the tonic of the following line of the poem
which are rhymed must be in the same tune.
◦ If in a line of a poem having two syllables which are rhymed, one syllable is rhymed


with the tonic of the previous line, the other have to accord with the tonic of the
following line, the two syllables are not necessary in the same tune. However, they are
must be in different vocal range if they in are same tune.
However, in the modern poetry and traditional form composed today are not strictly
followed these rules


Distribution rules of Vietnamese tones
e.g: “Thương vợ” by Trần Tế Xương











Syllables depends on Tune rule (2-4-6-7)
1

BTBB

Quanh năm buôn bán ở mom sông

2

TBTB

Nuôi đủ năm con với một chồng

3

TBTT

Lặn lội thân cò khi quãng vắng

4

BTBB

Eo sèo mặt nước buổi đò đông.

5

BTBT

Một duyên hai nợ âu đành phận

6

TBTB

Năm nắng mười mưa dám quản công.

7

TBTT

Cha mẹ thói đời ăn ở bạc!

8

BTBB

Có chồng hờ hững cũng như không!


Distribution rules of Vietnamese tones
Trăm năm trong cõi người ta,
Chữ tài chữ mệnh khéo là ghét nhau.
Trải qua một cuộc bể dâu,
Những điều trông thấy mà đau đớn lòng.
Lạ gì bỉ sắc tư phong,
Trời xanh quen thói má hồng đánh ghen.
Cảo thơm lần giở trước đèn,
Phong tình có lục còn truyền sử xanh.
Rằng năm Gia Tĩnh triều Minh,
Bốn phương phẳng lặng, hai kinh vững vàng.
(extracted from “Truyện Kiều” by Nguyen Du)


Two main functions of tones in Vietnamese
language
 Distinguishing functions

◦ Even participates in the distinction of the monosyllabic vocabulary in Vietnamese

V. word

E. meaning

V. word

(1) - ca
Ca (5) - cá
Largely
involved inMug
the Vietnamese word
units
◦ Ca
Ca (2) - cà

Egg-plan

Ca (6) – cạ

E. meaning

Fish

Couple


Two main functions of tones in Vietnamese
language
 Expressive function

◦ Able to express the feeling sense of words
◦ Mainly expressed in terms of pitch and continuity in tonal producing

Pair s of reduplicative words

Low V.R

Đồm độp

Bập bềnh

Cọt kẹt

3, and
weak,
andkétcontinuous sounds
V.R 5: short,
Đôm
đốp steady, resounding,
Bấp bênh deafening, Cót
◦ Tone 1,High
◦ Tone 2, 4, and 6: short, weak, steady, non-resounding, bass, and continuous sounds


THANK YOU



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