Tone (linguistics)

tonetonal languagetonestonaltone languagetonogenesistonal languagesword tonelexical tonepitch
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflect words.wikipedia
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Fula language

FulaFulfuldeFulani
Most languages of Sub-Saharan Africa are members of the Niger-Congo family, which is predominantly tonal; notable exceptions are Swahili (in the southeast), most languages spoken in the Senegambia (among them Wolof, Serer and Cangin languages), and Fulani.
Along with other related languages such as Serer and Wolof, it belongs to the Senegambian branch within the Niger–Congo languages, which does not have tones, unlike most other Niger–Congo languages.

Norwegian language

NorwegianNeutralNorwegian:
Swedish, Norwegian and Scots have simple word tone systems, often called pitch accent (although they are actually contour tones), appearing only in words of two or more syllables.
In both accents, these pitch movements are followed by a rise of intonational nature (phrase accent)—the size (and presence) of which signals emphasis or focus, and corresponds in function to the normal accent in languages that lack lexical tone, such as English.

Wolof language

WolofwolClassical Wolof
Most languages of Sub-Saharan Africa are members of the Niger-Congo family, which is predominantly tonal; notable exceptions are Swahili (in the southeast), most languages spoken in the Senegambia (among them Wolof, Serer and Cangin languages), and Fulani.
Unlike most other languages of the Niger-Congo family, Wolof is not a tonal language.

Grammatical number

numbersingularnumbers
Palancar and Léonard (2015) provided an example with Tlatepuzco Chinantec (an Oto-Manguean language spoken in Southern Mexico), where tones are able to distinguish mood, person, and number:

Lao language

LaoLaotianLaotian language
Sino-Tibetan languages (including Burmese, Mog and most varieties of Chinese; though some, such as Shanghainese, are only marginally tonal ) and Kra–Dai languages (including Thai and Lao) are mostly tonal.
Like other Tai languages, Lao is a tonal language and has a complex system of relational markers.

Ndyuka language

NdyukaAukanNdjuka
Ndjuka, in which tone is less important, ignores tone except for a negative marker.
For example, the difference between na ("is") and ná ("isn't") is tone; words can start with consonants such as mb and ng, and some speakers use the consonants kp and gb.

Kam language

KamDongDong language
For example, the Kam language has 9 tones: 3 more-or-less fixed tones (high, mid and low); 4 unidirectional tones (high and low rising, high and low falling); and 2 bidirectional tones (dipping and peaking).
Kam is a tonal language.

Dungan language

DungandngCyrillic Dungan
Dungan, a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Central Asia, has, since 1927, been written in orthographies that do not indicate tone.
Like other Chinese varieties, Dungan is tonal.

Depressor consonant

depresseddepressortone depressor
Vowels following a voiced consonant (depressor consonant) acquired a lower tone as the voicing lost its distinctiveness.
A depressor consonant is a consonant that depresses (lowers) the tone of its or a neighboring syllable.

Taishanese

Taishan dialectTaishanToisan
In Taishan, tone change indicates the grammatical number of personal pronouns.
Taishanese is tonal.

Hook above

hookhoi
This diacritic functions as a tone marker, indicating a "mid falling" tone (hỏi): which is "dipping" in Southern Vietnamese or "falling" in Northern Vietnamese; see Vietnamese language § Regional variation: Tones.

Khmer language

KhmerCambodianOld Khmer
Austroasiatic (such as Khmer and Mon) and Austronesian (such as Malay, Javanese, Tagalog, and Maori) languages are mostly non tonal with the rare exception of Austroasiatic languages like Vietnamese, and Austronesian languages like Cèmuhî and Tsat.
Khmer differs from neighboring languages such as Thai, Burmese, Lao and Vietnamese in that it is not a tonal language.

Uspantek language

UspantekuspUspantec
Other languages in Mesoamerica that have tones are Huichol, Yukatek Maya, the Tzotzil of San Bartolo, Uspanteko, and one variety of Huave.
It is also one of only three Mayan languages to have developed contrastive tone (the others being Yukatek and one dialect of Tzotzil).

Cherokee language

CherokeeCherokee-languageMyths of the Cherokee
Several North American languages have tone, one of which is Cherokee, an Iroquoian language.
Oklahoma Cherokee has six phonemic tones, two of which are level (low, high) and the other four of which are contour (rising, falling, highfall, lowfall).

Tzotzil language

TzotzilTsotsilTzotzil Maya
Other languages in Mesoamerica that have tones are Huichol, Yukatek Maya, the Tzotzil of San Bartolo, Uspanteko, and one variety of Huave.
The Tzotzil variant of San Bartolomé de Los Llanos, in the Venustiano Carranza region, was analyzed as having two phonemic tones by Sarles 1966.

Sub-Saharan Africa

sub-SaharanSub Saharan AfricaSub-Saharan African
Most languages of Sub-Saharan Africa are members of the Niger-Congo family, which is predominantly tonal; notable exceptions are Swahili (in the southeast), most languages spoken in the Senegambia (among them Wolof, Serer and Cangin languages), and Fulani.
The vast majority of languages of this family are tonal such as Yoruba, and Igbo, However, others such as Fulani and Wolof are not.

Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area

tone splitSinosphereareal
Contour systems are typical of languages of the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area, including Kra–Dai, Vietic and Sino-Tibetan languages.
A characteristic of MSEA languages is a particular syllable structure involving monosyllabic morphemes, lexical tone, a fairly large inventory of consonants, including phonemic aspiration, limited clusters at the beginning of a syllable, and plentiful vowel contrasts.

Dogri language

DogriDogradoi
The only Indo-Aryan languages to have tonality are Punjabi, Dogri, and Lahnda and many Bengali-Assamese languages such as Sylheti, Rohingya, Chittagonian, and Chakma.
Unusually for an Indo-European language, Dogri is tonal, a trait it shares with other Western Pahari languages and Punjabi.

Chichimeca Jonaz language

Chichimeca JonazChichimecChichimec language
The Mesoamerican language stock called Oto-Manguean is famously tonal and is the largest language family in Mesoamerica, containing languages including Zapotec, Mixtec, and Otomí, some of which have as many as five register tones (Trique, Usila Chinantec) and others only two (Matlatzinca and Chichimeca Jonaz).
Chichimeca Jonaz is a tonal language and distinguishes high and low level tones.

Swahili language

SwahiliKiswahiliKiswahili language
Most languages of Sub-Saharan Africa are members of the Niger-Congo family, which is predominantly tonal; notable exceptions are Swahili (in the southeast), most languages spoken in the Senegambia (among them Wolof, Serer and Cangin languages), and Fulani.
Unlike the majority of Niger-Congo languages, Swahili lacks contrastive tone (pitch contour).

Varieties of Chinese

ChineseSiniticChinese varieties
Sino-Tibetan languages (including Burmese, Mog and most varieties of Chinese; though some, such as Shanghainese, are only marginally tonal ) and Kra–Dai languages (including Thai and Lao) are mostly tonal. Most varieties of Chinese use contour tone systems, where the distinguishing feature of the tones are their shifts in pitch (that is, the pitch is a contour), such as rising, falling, dipping, or level.
All have phonemic tones, with northern varieties tending to have fewer distinctions than southern ones.

Middle Chinese

Early Middle ChineseLate Middle ChineseMC
Chinese varieties are traditionally described in terms of four tonal categories ping ('level'), shang ('rising'), qu ('exiting'), ru ('entering'), based on the traditional analysis of Middle Chinese (see Four tones); note that these are not at all the same as the four tones of modern standard Mandarin Chinese.
Finals with vocalic and nasal codas may have one of three tones, named level, rising and departing.

Skou languages

SkouSkoSkou language
Tone is also present in many Papuan languages, including in the Lakes Plain and Sko families.
Skou languages are unusual among Papuan languages for being tonal; all Skou languages possess contrastive tone.

Transphonologization

cheshirizationbeen preservedbelow
However, if consonant voicing is subsequently lost, that incidental pitch difference may be left over to carry the distinction that the voicing previously carried (a process called transphonologization) and thus becomes meaningful (phonemic).