15th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

September 14-18, 2014

Preservation of Lexical Tones in Singing in a Tone Language

Anastasia Karlsson, Håkan Lundström, Jan-Olof Svantesson

Lund University, Sweden

Lexical tones are important for expressing meaning and usually have high priority in tone languages. This can create conflicts with sentence intonation in spoken language and with melodic templates in singing since all of these are transmitted by pitch. The main question in this investigation is whether a language (in our case the Mon-Khmer language Kammu) with a simple two-tone system uses similar strategies for preserving lexical tones in singing and speech. We investigate the realization of lexical tones in a singing genre which can be described as recitation based on a partly predefined, though still flexible, melodic template. The contrast between High and Low tone is preserved, and is realized mainly at the beginning of the vowel. Apparently, the rest of the syllable rhyme serves either for strengthening the lexical contrast or for melodic purposes. Syllables are often reduplicated in singing, and the reduplicant ignores lexical tones. The preservation of lexical tones in Kammu singing, and their early timing close to the vowel onset, is very similar to what we have found for speech.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Karlsson, Anastasia / Lundström, Håkan / Svantesson, Jan-Olof (2014): "Preservation of lexical tones in singing in a tone language", In INTERSPEECH-2014, 1357-1360.