A Typological Study of Tonal Systems of Japanese and Prinmi: Towards a Definition of Pitch-accent Languages

Picus Sizhi Ding 1
Author Information & Copyright
1Macao Polytechnic Institute

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


Based on the principle of suprasegmental organization in Japanese and Prinmi (a Tibeto-Burman language of China), this paper defines a ‘pitch-accent system’ as one that generates tonal patterns through different placement of a marked tone on a syllable/mora in an underlying domain, which is independent of both the syllable and the word.

Under this definition, the pitch-accent systems of six Japanese dialects can be analyzed uniformly. The diversity of the pitch-accent systems between these Japanese dialects and Prinmi is mainly reflected in: (1) whether or not the marked tone spreads; (2) the direction of spreading and restriction on the scope of spreading; and (3) which edge of the underlying domain is relevant in locating the marked tone.

Keywords: pitch-accent languages; tonal systems; Japanese dialects; Prinmi; Tibeto-Burman



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