New SIL publication: Tone Analysis for Field Linguists

This book teaches linguists a tried-and-proven methodology for analyzing tone in any part of the world.

(January 2018) Many readers are discovering Tone Analysis for Field Linguists, by Dr. Keith L. Snider, an excellent publication for both beginner and experienced linguists. Assuming little prior knowledge of tone or tone languages, Tone Analysis for Field Linguists is readily accessible to students and field workers alike who have previously taken introductory courses in articulatory phonetics, phonology, and morphology and syntax.

Tone, the use of pitch to provide phonological contrast between morphemes, plays an integral role in the structure of many languages. This book teaches linguists a tried-and-proven methodology for analyzing tone in any part of the world.

In the book's foreword, Will Leben, PhD., emeritus professor after 34 years with the Linguistics Departments at Stanford University, calls this "a complete course on tone." He further states: "While it is laid out as a primer for beginners, I'm delighted to find that it also very well serves my own level by reviewing progress in the analysis and typology of tone covering the world's important linguistic areas, including Africa, Asia, the Americas and even a case from Papua New Guinea."

A new feature for SIL Publications is the availability of additional online supporting materials for teachers, developed by the author to supplement the text. There are 13 exercises with accompanying sound files that are available to instructors and those pursuing self-study. These exercises guide students through a detailed analysis of nominal tone in Chumburung, a language of Ghana, following the methodology introduced in chapter 2 of the textbook. They provide a valuable hands-on learning experience which complements the reading materials.

Significant features:

  • Delivers the most comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to tone analysis for field linguists
  • Emphasizes the discovery of contrastive tone patterns of morphemes, as opposed to contrastive tones of tone-bearing units
  • Focuses on keeping constant all factors that can potentially affect tone, so that utterances being compared are truly comparable
  • Includes a chapter on the phonetic properties of pitch
  • Presents principles for developing orthographies for tone languages
  • Includes comprehensive accompanying online exercises that guide students from beginning to end through a complete analysis of nominal tone in a single language, Chumburung.


About the author 

Dr. Keith L. Snider, born in Jos, Nigeria, is a Senior Linguistics Consultant with SIL International® and an Affiliate Professor at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada, having directed their M.A. in Linguistics program for five years. He began his linguistics career in Ghana, working with the Chumburung people, which sparked a lifelong interest in phonology, especially tone analysis. Snider has conducted over a dozen phonology and tone workshops throughout Africa, covering more than 50 languages.


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