Sample J34 from H. A. Gleason, "Review of African language studies I, edited by Malcolm Guthrie," Language, 37 (1961), 302-305. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,000 words 22 (1.1%) quotesJ34

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H. A. Gleason, "Review of African language studies I, edited by Malcolm Guthrie," Language, 37 (1961), 302-305.

Typographical Error: familar [0150]

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It is obvious enough that linguists in general have been less successful in coping with tone systems than with consonants or vowels . No single explanation is adequate to account for this . Improvement , however , is urgent , and at least three things will be needed .

The first is a wide-ranging sample of successful tonal analyses . Even beginning students in linguistics are made familiar with an appreciable variety of consonant systems , both in their general outlines and in many specific details . An advanced student has read a considerable number of descriptions of consonantal systems , including some of the more unusual types . By contrast , even experienced linguists commonly know no more of the range of possibilities in tone systems than the over-simple distinction between register and contour languages . This limited familiarity with the possible phenomena has severely hampered work with tone . Tone analysis will continue to be difficult and unsatisfactory until a more representative selection of systems is familar to every practicing field linguist . Papers like these four , if widely read , will contribute importantly to improvement of our analytic work .

The second need is better field techniques . The great majority of present-day linguists fall into one or more of a number of overlapping types : those who are convinced that tone cannot be analysed , those who are personally scared of tone and tone languages generally , those who are convinced that tone is merely an unnecessary marginal feature in those languages where it occurs , those who have no idea how to proceed with tone analysis , those who take a simplistic view of the whole matter . The result has been neglect , fumbling efforts , or superficial treatment . As these maladies overlap , so must the cure . Analyses such as these four will simultaneously combat the assumptions that tone is impossible and that it is simple . They will give suggestions that can be worked up into field procedures . Good field techniques will not only equip linguists for better work , but also help them overcome negative attitudes . Actually , none of these papers says much directly about field techniques . But it is worth pondering that very little has been published on any phase of field techniques in linguistics . These things have been disseminated by other means , but always in the wake of extensive publication of analytic results .

The third need is for better theory . We should expect that general phonologic theory should be as adequate for tone as for consonants and vowels , but it has not been . This can only be for one of two reasons : either the two are quite different and will require totally different theory ( and hence techniques ) , or our existing theories are insufficiently general . If , as I suspect , the problem is largely of the second sort , then development of a theory better able to handle tone will result automatically in better theory for all phonologic subsystems .

One issue that must be faced is the relative difficulty of analysis of different phonologic subsystems . Since tone systems typically comprise fewer units than either consonant or vowel systems , we might expect that they would be the easiest part of a phonologic analysis . Actual practice does not often work out this way . Tone systems are certainly more complex than the number of units would suggest , and often analytically more difficult than much larger consonantal systems .

Welmers has suggested one explanation . Tone languages use for linguistic contrasts speech parameters which also function heavily in nonlinguistic use . This may both divert the attention of the uninitiate and cause confusion for the more knowledgeable . The problem is to disentangle the linguistic features of pitch from the co-occurring nonlinguistic features . Of course , something of the same sort occurs with other sectors of the phonology : consonantal articulations have both a linguistic and an individual component . But in general the individual variation is a small thing added onto basic linguistic features of greater magnitude . With tone , individual differences may be greater than the linguistic contrasts which are superimposed on them . Pitch differences from one speaker to another , or from one emotional state to another , may far exceed the small differences between tones . However , any such suggestion accounts for only some of the difficulties in hearing tone , or in developing a realistic attitude about tone , but not for the analytic difficulties that occur even when tone is meticulously recorded .

A second explanation is suggested by the material described in Rowlands' paper . Tone and intonation often become seriously intermeshed . Neither can be adequately systematized until we are able to separate the two and assign the observed phenomena individually to one or the other . Other pairs of phonologic subsystems also interact or overlap in this way ; ; for example , duration sometimes figures in both the vowel system and the intonation . Some phonetic features , for example glottal catch or murmur , are sometimes to be assigned to segmental phonemics and sometimes to accentual systems . But no other two phonologic systems are as difficult to disentangle as are tone and intonation in some languages . This explanation of tone difficulties , however , does not apply in all languages . In some ( the Ewe type mentioned above ) interaction of tone and intonation is restricted to the ends of intonation spans . In many of the syllables , intonation can be safely ignored , and much of the tonal analysis can be done without any study of intonation . Still , even in such languages tone analysis has not been as simple as one might expect .

A third explanation is suggested by Richardson's analysis of Sukuma tone . There we see a basically simple phonemic system enmeshed in a very complex and puzzling morphophonemic system . While the phonemes can be very easily stated , no one is likely to be satisfied with the statement until phonemic occurrences can be related in some way to morphemic units , i.e. until the morphophonemics is worked out , or at least far enough that it seems reasonable to expect success .

In the `` typical tone language '' , tonal morphophonemics is of the same order of complexity as consonantal morphophonemics . The phonemic systems which must support these morphophonemic systems , however , are very different . The inventory of tones is much smaller , and commonly the contrasts range along one single dimension , pitch level . Consonantal systems are not merely larger , they are multidimensional . Morphophonemic rules may be thought of as joining certain points in the system . The possibilities in the consonantal system are very numerous , and only a small portion of them are actually used . Phonemes connected by a morphophonemic rule commonly show a good bit of phonetic similarity , possible because of the several dimensions of contrast in the system . Tonal morphophonemics , in a common case , can do nothing but either raise or lower the tone . The possibilities are few , and the total number of rules may be considerably greater . Often , therefore , there are a number of rules having the same effect , and commonly other sets of rules as well , having the opposite effect . Tonal morphophonemics is much more confusing to the beginning analyst than consonantal morphophonemics , even when the total number of rules is no greater .

The difficulty of analysis of any subsystem in the phonology is an inverse function of the size -- smaller systems are more troublesome -- for any given degree of morphophonemic complexity . This hypothesis will account for a large part of the difficulties of tonal analysis , as well as the fact that vowel systems are often more puzzling than consonantal systems . The statement of the system is a different matter . Smaller systems can of course be stated much more succinctly . A phonemic system can be stated without reference to morphophonemics , but it cannot always be found without morphophonemics . And the more complex the morphophonemic system is in relation to the phonemic base , the less easily a phonemic system will be analysed without close attention to the morphophonemics -- at least , the less satisfying will a phonemic statement be if it cannot be related through morphophonemic rules to grammatically meaningful structures .

The design of orthographies has received much less attention from linguists than the problem deserves . There has been a tendency on the part of many American linguists to assume that a phonemic transcription will automatically be the best possible orthography and that the only real problem will then be the social one of securing acceptance . This seems naive . Most others have been content to give only the most general attention to the broadest and most obvious features of the phonology when designing orthographies . Apparently the feeling is that anything more would be involvement in technical abstrusenesses of possible pedantic interest but of no visible significance in practical affairs . The result of this attitude has been the domination of many orthography conferences by such considerations as typographic ' esthetics ' , which usually turns out to be nothing more than certain prejudices carried over from European languages . Many of the suggested systems seem to have only the most tenuous relationship to the language structures that they purport to represent . Linguists have not always been more enlightened than `` practical people '' and sometimes have insisted on incredibly trivial points while neglecting things of much greater significance . As a result , many people have been confirmed in their conviction that orthography design is not an activity to which experts can contribute anything but confusion .

A. E. Sharp , in Vowel-Length And Syllabicity In Kikuyu , examines one set of related orthographic questions and its phonologic background in detail . His objective is merely to determine `` what distinctions of length and syllabicity it may be desirable to make explicit in a Kikuyu orthography '' ( 59 ) . To do so , he finds it necessary to examine the relevant parts of the phonology thoroughly and in detail . In the process , he develops some very significant observations about problems of a sort that are often difficult . A few of his examples are of very great interest , and the whole discussion of some importance for theory . His orthographic recommendations are no simplistic acceptance of phonemics on the one hand or of superficiality on the other . Rather he weighs each phonologic fact in the light of its orthographic usefulness . He concludes that some changes can be made in the current orthography which will appreciably improve its usefulness , but hesitates to suggest precise graphic devices to effect these changes . I hope his suggestions are given the consideration they deserve in Kikuyu circles . This , however , will not exhaust their practical usefulness , as they rather clearly indicate what thorough phonologic investigation can contribute to orthography design . We need many more studies of this sort if the design of written languages is to be put on a sound basis .

One other paper deals with a phonologic problem : Vowel Harmony In Igbo , by J. Carnochan . This restates the already widely known facts in terms of prosodies . As a restatement it makes only a small contribution to knowledge of Igbo . But it would seem more intended as a tract advocating the prosodic theory than a paper directed to the specific problems of Igbo phonology . The paper has a certain value as a comparatively easy introduction to this approach , particularly since it treats a fairly simple and straightforward phenomenon where it is possible to compare it with a more traditional ( though not structural ) statement . It does show one feature of the system that has not been previously described . But it does not , as it claims , demonstrate that this could not be treated by traditional methods . It seems to me that it rather easily can .

Five of the papers deal with grammatical problems . On the whole they maintain much the same high standard , but they are much more difficult to discuss in detail because of their wider variety of subject matter . My comments must be briefer than the papers deserve .

W. H. Whiteley writes on The Verbal Radical In Iraqw . This must be considered primarily an amendment and supplement to his early A Short Description Of Item-Categories In Iraqw . It exhibits much the same descriptive technique and is open to much the same criticisms . The treatment seems unnecessarily loose-jointed and complex , largely because the method is lax and the analysis seems never to be pushed to a satisfactory or even a consistent stopping-point .