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American English, a tonal language?

This video, by Glossika (Mike Campbell) of youtube fame, pretty much blew my mind. What do you guys think?

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
kazamesu
Apr. 17th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
It's interesting, of course, but the important thing to note is that the tones don't necessarily change meaning; they do, slightly, but a native speaker will still understand what you mean if you change the tone because of the context. Therefore, I wouldn't consider English a tonal language, even if speakers do use tone to facilitate understanding. It is helpful, but not essential, except in distinguishing mood (like interrogative or declarative, for instance).

So it's a very very good resource to help learners of the language sound more natural, but it's not essential, because most of the important distinctions are things they'll pick up. In my opinion, anyway.
mornea
Apr. 18th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
I agree with kazamesu, that meaning will still be understood if a different tone is used. However, it will sound a little odd. And a different tone can convey a different mood.

It's also interesting that despite massive differences in pronunciation across the US, we do tend to use the same tones.
phiso_kun
Apr. 20th, 2010 05:44 am (UTC)
I agree with kazamesu - interesting, for sure, and useful for learners who come from tonal languages, but he's sort of confusing a "tonal language" with intonation in general, which is very important in English. A lot of his tones would vary in different varieties and situations, as mornea pointed out. I know I don't use all of them all the time. In any case, as has already been pointed out, perhaps we all have similar intonation - something that must be relearned with every language - but changing the tone of the word doesn't change the meaning.

Really, it's not a particularly technical video, but I don't think it's supposed to be, either. It's an interesting little clip, though.
phiso_kun
Apr. 20th, 2010 05:49 am (UTC)
Plus if we were a tonal language those automated messages on answering machines and stuff wouldn't sound so weird.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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