Akan Teleteaching Course

Unit 7.4: Notes on pronunciation 1

Link tone chat

Student 2: I missed it again.
Student 1: What?
Student 2: The tone.
Student 1: What tone? Missed one of these downsteps?
Student 2: Downstep? Quite the contrary. The tone went up where I thought it should have been down…
Student 1: And why should it have been down?
Student 2: Why??? Don't you remember, we spent hours to get the tones of the verb sorted out.
Student 1: Yes, I do.
Student 2: And all the fuss they made about those verbs which are Short and High most of the time, but then become Long and Low in the Past? k Nkran, Yt kwadu, Nsu t nnora. Don't you remember? We were told that this is typical of storytelling: t … od and so on.
Student 1: Yes, but dont't forget that there are other verbs which have more than one syllable…
Student 2: I know, I know, and these have a High tone in the middle, as in wbsaa me "they asked me".
Student 1: But even the short verbs sometimes have another syllable added to them…
Student 2: Yes, and then they become disyllabic. For instance at the beginning of the famous story of the ant and the dove, when the ant is going to fall into the river, we have k-t 'go fall' (-> verb tone pattern; -> andative). This behaves just like any other 2-syllabic stem, and we get the beautiful wave contour na kt mu.
Student 1: You sound very poetic. But where is your problem?
Student 2: Just listen to the small sentence which comes right after that.
Student 3: Let's hear.
Student 1: That t nsuo no mu no is really High.
Student 2: Yes, and the verb is short, one syllable, and is part of the story.
Student 1: Maybe is is just an error.
Student 2: But it happens all the time in the story. My friend told me that this is the way it has to be, but why the tone changes he does not know.
Student 1: Of course not. If you learn to speak the language as a child, you know these things without even knowing what you know.
Student 4: Couldn't it be a matter of dialects? Dolphyne shows in Chapter 3 of her 1988 book that tones differ a lot between dialects.
Student 2: I almost lost a friend when I suggested that the storyteller had mixed dialects.
Student 5: You should never suggest anything like that.
Student 2: Of course not.
Student 3: Isn't that what I always said? Forget about tone. You think you got it, and it only gets you into trouble. It changes all the time, and by the way, this is one of the reasons they don't want to have it in the orthography.
Student 5: It seems to me you are all trying do describe a black cat in a dark room. Why do you not take the time to look up the references? Some people have written about these things, and reading it, rather than arguing out of the blue, could get you out of the dark.
Student 4: Tell us.
Student 5: Well for instance, there is a Ghanaian linguist, living in the United States, called Paul A. Kotey. Kotey has published a Twi-English and English-Twi dictionary, by the way all the tones are marked in it. He says in an article
Student 2: I am not interested in theory, I just want to know where these funny High tones come from, and why the tones change.
Teacher: Allow me to say something here. You just want to know why. This is just what a good theory does, it helps you to know why.
Student 2: So tell me.
Student 5: Kotey says "that words that constitute a sentence may have one set of tones on them, but when that sentence is used as a subordinate clause in another sentence, the tones may be totally different."
Student 2: I am not interested in what Kotey says.
Student 3: But I am.
Teacher: Yes, I really think it is worth looking at the whole question of tone again, and consider what others have to say as well. But let us first take care of the emergency…
Student 4: Why not divide into two groups, one for those who are only interested in the funny High tones, and another group for those of us who would like to know about what Kotey and others have to say on this subject.
Teacher: Fine with me. So those who want to discuss basics, click on link to discussion on how to deal with the problem of tonal change (which at the end will take you back to this point). The others, just stay with me.
Student 1: While you were talking, I had a bright idea. Couldn't it be that the funny High tone of t is there because the audience already know from the preceding sentence that the ant is going to fall into the river, so this sentence does not tell him anything new?
Student 2: Sounds like another one of these weird theories.
Teacher: No, you are on the right track.
Student 2: But why does he repeat what was already said?
Student 1: It is not quite a repetition because he had not yet said that the ant had fallen into the river, but only that it was going to.
Teacher: Right. But the idea is already there, and the expectation that the ant will fall into the river is there as well.
Student 1: But I think it is necessary that it be stated clearly that it actually fell into the water. After all, this is where the story starts from. This is what causes the dove to rescue the ant. This is what creates the link between the two animals.
Teacher: And this is why this funny High tone is called the Link tone.
Student 2: You are kidding. Why do you need a special tone to create a link between two animals in a story?
Teacher: Well, you wanted to know why this tone is here. Just listen to a few examples:
1. kaa nie . it is a car
2. kaa nie . it is a ring
3. me kaa nie no change it is my car
4. me kaa nie initial Low tone is replaced by High it is my ring
5. sre verb stem is High he prays
6. sre verb stem is Low-High he stands up
7. me na mesre no change it is me who prays
8. me na mesre initial Low tone is replaced by High it is me who stands up
Student 1: It is funny, the changes which occur on the verb in (7-8) are exactly the same as those we observe on the noun in (3-4).
Teacher: It is always the first Low tone which is replaced by a High, mostly on the first syllable of the noun stem or of the verb stem. In some well-defined cases, the tone change occurs on the syllable preceding the stem - the possessive pronoun before the noun, the subject prefix or the aspect marker before the verb.
Student 2: And you are saying that this change occurs when there is a link two something already said or a link of association between the ring and its owner, for instance.
Teacher: Exactly. You want to know more?
Student 2: Later.
Teacher: Okay. Whenever you feel like more, just click on linking tone 1 or linking tone 2.
Student 1: What you have just said about pointing back to something already said or known - Is this when the linking tone occurs?
Teacher: Well, it also occurs in relative clauses, in focus sentences as we have seen already, and in temporal adverbial clauses. This last case is illustrated by the example from the story. It was when the ant fell into the water, that the story began to unfold.
Student 2: Thanks. But are these all the tone changes which occur?
Teacher: Linking tone is really the most important. When you understand this essentially simple principle, you have mastered more than half of it. There are some others, mostly due to High tone spreading. Let's leave these for another time.

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