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Hi all,

I'm not sure if this is the place for non-English linguistic chat. But here it is:

I got a shipment of modern Chinese pop music from my folks back home, and as I played it in my car stereo, I thought the songs didn't sound right to me. It seems to me that lyricists nowadays put words with the wrong tones onto the wrong music notes, which causes a jarring effect.

This reminds me of something my Chinese teacher said in school: many Chinese names have alternating tones (by that I mean "ping jak" in Cantonese -- we simply don't put three characters in "ping", or "jak" together. We alternate them.) Chinese names with the same tones just don't sound right to us.

Anybody out there also speaking a tonal language? Caring to share your experience with us? Is there a universal phonological rule underlying all tonal languages?
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Julie,

I hope you get some responses. This is fascinating.

Meanwhile, I've always wondered: In English we using a rising tone to indicate we are asking a question. But in Chinese, doing that would (I assume from my limited knowledge of it) change the meaning of the last word or so of the sentence, wouldn't it? In English we also use rising and falling tone throughout whole phrases, sometimes to indicate some emotional state or another.

So how can you ask a question in Chinese? How can you indicate emotional states? Is this done by superimposing a sort of "tone of voice" over the tones on the individual syllables? Or is there an entirely different grammatical or pragmatic "machinery" for showing these things?

Jim
In Chinese, we have question markers like "ma". e.g. Nei hou ma (literally: you well?)
In Japanese, the marker is "ka". e.g. gakksei desu ka? (you are student?)
How can you indicate emotional states?
Is this done by superimposing a sort of "tone of voice" over the tones on the individual syllables?

I guess you can say that. That is in addition to other expressive modes common to most languages, like stretching or speeding up the pronunciations.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
I learn Mandarin, and as far as I'm aware, singers have always altered tones somewhat to fit melodies. Do you think there has been a change recently?

Three identical tones in sequence don't seem to slip off the tongue very well. I'd also be interested to learn if other tonal languages have similar naming habits (avoiding these) - I would certainly guess so.
I learn Mandarin, and as far as I'm aware, singers have always altered tones somewhat to fit melodies. Do you think there has been a change recently?


Maybe this is a recent thing with Cantonese songs?

Just found this on the web:

"In modern Mandarin songs, the melodies dominate, so that the original tones on the lyrics seem to be completely ignored. In Cantonese songs, however, the melodies typically take the lexical tones into consideration and attempt to preserve their pitch contours and relative pitch heights."

Source: [url="http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/chan9/articles/bls13.htm "]Tone and Melody in Cantonese[/url]
yes, that's true for cantonese songs. There's 6 or arguably 9 tones in cantonese. Every minor change in tones can represent a whole different meaning and hence people avoid doing it.

for example, "nang gau" (be able to) is a common cantonese word that we use it every day, but if you carelessly say it in high pitch, it can mean *** and ***. Deadly embarassing for anyone.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
How can you indicate emotional states? Is this done by superimposing a sort of "tone of voice" over the tones on the individual syllables? Or is there an entirely different grammatical or pragmatic "machinery" for showing these things?


Good question. Tones are fixed and can't be changed in most cases in chinese, but we can use facial expression, and some words (like WA!! AH!!! AIYA!! ) to express our emotions.

I think it's not a characteristic exclusively for tonal language. Japanese is famous for their exaggerating facial expression. I believe it's because its intonations are too flat, and it must be complemented with strong facial expression.