English, a Tonal Language?

  • KJ Pam


Pitch or intonation as it is often called is used in all languages to add special significance to what is said. When a person speaks, the pitch of his voice keeps altering.Sometimes it is high, and sometimes it is low. If the pitch does not change in this manner, the spoken utterance will sound monotonous and the speech will be deprived of an important means of expression. This paper seeks to answer the question as to whether English, is a tonal language. Does it behave like other tonal languages around the globe? Tone is associated with lexical meaning, distinguishing one word from another. Diacritical marks are used for indicating tone to eliminate confusion.The general conclusion is English, is not a tonal language. English is an intonation language which expresses syntactic, discourse, grammatical and attitudinal functions. English has also been referred to as a stress language where a change in stress changes the grammatical category of the word and not the meaning as seen in the case of tonal languages.Regardless of the fact that English is not a tonal language, sometimes Nigerian English assigns tone which relies heavily on a pragmatic implication to arrive at meaning.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2227-5452
print ISSN: 2225-8590