Downstep


Downstep
Downstep
ꜜ◌
IPA number 517
Encoding
Entity (decimal) ꜜ
Unicode (hex) U+A71C

view · talk · edit 

In phonetics, downstep is a phonemic or phonetic downward shift of tone between the syllables or words of a tonal language. It is best known in the tonal languages of West Africa, but the pitch accent of Japanese (a non-tonal language) is quite similar to downstep in Africa. Downstep contrasts with the much rarer upstep. The symbol for downstep in the International Phonetic Alphabet is a superscript down arrow, (). It is common to see a superscript exclamation mark, (!), used instead due to typographic constraints.

Phonetic downstep may occur between sequences of the same phonemic tone. For example, when two mid tones occur together in Twi, the second is at a lower pitch than the first. Thus downstep plays a vital role in downdrift and tone terracing.

Phonemic downstep may occur when a low tone is elided, or occurs as a floating tone, and leaves a following tone at a lower level than it would otherwise be. An example occurs in Bambara. In this language, the definite article is a floating low tone. With a noun in isolation, it docks to the preceding vowel, turning a high tone into a falling tone:

/bá/ river
/bâ/ the river

However, when it occurs between two high tones, it downsteps the following tone:

/bá tɛ́/ it's not a river
/bá ꜜ tɛ́/ it's not the river

Japanese pitch accent is similar. About 80% of Japanese words have an evenly rising pitch, something like French, which carries over onto following unstressed grammatical particles. However, a word may have a drop in pitch between morae, or before the grammatical particle. An example is

/kaꜜki/ [kákì] oyster
/kakiꜜ/ [kàkí] fence
/kaki/ [kàkí] persimmon

In isolation like this, the first word has a high-low pitch, whereas the second and third are homonyms with a low-high pitch. (The first syllable is only low when the word is said in isolation.) However, all three are distinct when followed by the so-called "subject" particle ga:

/kaꜜkiɡa/ [kákìɡà] oyster
/kakiꜜɡa/ [kàkíɡà] fence
/kakiɡa/ [kàkīɡá] persimmon

References

  • David Crystal. A dictionary of linguistics & phonetics. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003 pg. 130

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • downstep — noun An downward shift of tone between the syllables or words of a tonal language …   Wiktionary

  • Downstep (phonetics) — In phonetics, downstep is a phonemic or phonetic downward shift of tone between the syllables or words of a tonal language. It is best known in the tonal languages of West Africa, but the pitch accent of Japanese (a non tonal language) is quite… …   Wikipedia

  • Japanese pitch accent — is a feature of the Japanese language. It distinguishes words in most Japanese dialects, though the nature and location of the accent for a given word may vary between dialects. For instance, in standard Tokyo Japanese the word for now is IPA|… …   Wikipedia

  • Downdrift — In phonetics, downdrift is the cumulative lowering of pitch over time due to interactions among tones, called downstep, in a tonal language. It is distinct from the general lowering of the pitch during prosodic contours of a tonal or non tonal… …   Wikipedia

  • Tone (linguistics) — Not to be confused with intonation (linguistics). Top tone ◌̋ ˥ …   Wikipedia

  • Tone terracing — is a type of phonetic downdrift, where the high or mid tones, but not the low tone, shift downward in pitch (downstep) after certain other tones. The result is that a tone may be realized at a certain pitch over a short stretch of speech, shifts… …   Wikipedia

  • Chadic languages — Introduction       largest family of languages in the Afro Asiatic (Afro Asiatic languages) phylum. Some 140 or more Chadic languages are spoken, predominantly in Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad. The four subdivisions of the Chadic family West …   Universalium

  • Nafaanra — Spoken in Ghana, Côte d Ivoire Region North west corner of the Brong Ahafo region in Ghana, east of Bondouko in Côte d Ivoire Ethnicity Nafana Native speakers 61,000 …   Wikipedia

  • Kansai dialect — A label in Kansai ben. The advertisement, Iwashi o tabena akan!, translates as You must eat sardines! …   Wikipedia

  • Tone sandhi — Sound change and alternation Metathesis Quantitative metathesis …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.