Communities developing resources and competencies for using their languages
Foundational understanding for language development work of all kinds
Publications, fonts and computer tools for language development, translation and research
SIL offers training in disciplines relevant to sustainable language development.
7,105 languages are spoken or signed. CLICK for map of world languages & regional websites.
SIL's dedication to language development past and present
Many languages in the world have a distinction between “tones”. So if something is said witha high-pitch, it means something different from if it is said at a mid-pitch or low-pitch. Youdon’t have to have perfect-pitch to hear it as everyone starts talking at different pitches! It ishow much it goes up and down that matters.The tones are normally shown with accents. But the example here is also shown with musicalnotes as that might make it clearer.Consider the words shown above. These come from Mende (a language spoken in Sierra Leone).
We say that these notes are "the tones". We call them Low (L) and High (H).The first word has 1 vowel and the tones H LThe second word has 3 vowels and the tone H (we don’t repeat it if it is the same note as thelast one)For the other four words, how many vowels are there and what are the tones?You should find that two words have the same tones as each other and another two words also have thesame tones as each other.
(To answer that, you will have to figure out howthe accents show the tones).In Mende, each word has a set pattern of tones. Starting at one end of the word, the tones areplaced on each vowel, with each vowel getting one tone till you run out. Which end does thisstart at?What happens if tones are left over?What happens if vowels are left over?
This is a slightly simplified version of Mende, but basically, if you have answered thequestions, you now know the main way that tones work in Mende! They stretch out orsqueeze up to fit the word! If you look up this site you should be able to find out much moreabout tone in many different languages.
There are 2 “notes”. L and H
2 tones can appear on one vowel (actually 3 can, but not here)
The tones are distributed from left to right.
If tones are left over, they bunch up on the last syllable.
If vowels are left over, the same tone is repeated.
This is a slightly simplified version of Mende, but basically, if you have answered the questions, you now know the main way that tones work in Mende! They stretch out or squeeze up to fit the word! If you look up this site you should be able to find out much more about tone in many different languages:
Tonal languages (Wikipedia)
And more information on Mende can be found at: