Correlation between Sylheti tone and phonation

Author(s): Amalesh Gope and Shakuntala Mahanta

Abstract

The classic theories of tonogenesis distinguish voiced obstruents as the pitch suppressor of the following vowels whereas their voiceless counterparts are predicted to raise it (Yip 2004, Hombert 1978, Maddieson 1977). These predictabilities, however, do not seem to work in Sylheti which observes a high tone following the loss of breathiness contrast ([d_a_n] ‘paddy’ [d_h>d_], [d_a_n] ‘donate’), and/or a low tone associated with a voiceless consonant ([___r] ‘read’ [p>_], and [___r] ‘guard’ [p>_]) (Gope & Mahanta, 2015, 2014). To understand the tonogenetic property of Sylheti this study attempts to examine the phonation qualities of the vowels carrying contrastive tones. Twenty monosyllabic words were recorded from 9 native speakers. The acoustic components considered for measuring the voice quality characteristics comprise the difference between the amplitude of a) the first and second harmonic (H1-H2), b) the second and fourth harmonic (H2-H4), c) first harmonic and first formant peak (H1-A1) d) first harmonic and second formant peak (H1-A2), and e) the overall spectral tilt (H1-A3). The results of various spectral measurements suggest that the vowels marked with high tone are in the continuum of modal to creakiness whereas the vowels associated with low tone are indeed modal in nature.

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