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 .