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7790 - Tone-length correspondences within the Mondé branch of the Tupi family

The languages of the Mondé branch of the Tupi family, spoken in Rondônia and in Mato Grosso, Brazil, are unique in the Tupi family in that they are the only known Tupian languages which have both contrastive tone and contrastive length. The interaction of tone and length creates complex supersegmental systems. For example, in the speech of the Gavião of Rondônia up to three tones can occur on a syllable of two moras and there are also floating tones (Moore 1999). The morphotonemic alternations are complex and vary among the languages and dialects. However, recent research shows that in spite of the large number and seeming irregularity of superficial tone and length correspondences, systematic tone-length correspondences of surprising regularity can be found if the effects of synchronic phonological rules are taken into account and some diachronic processes are postulated. Processes which affect the correspondences include lengthening, shortening, tone assimilation and dissimilation, tone absorption, and stem-formative processes. These are demonstrated and discussed. The short tones are generally more stable than the tones on long syllables. The correspondences indicate that the ancestral language, Proto-Mondé, had at least five tone-length contrasts, not just the four which would be produced by a short/long contrast interacting with a low/high tone contrast. One of the principal challenges of this work is the determination of the tone-length rules of each of the languages and dialects, aside from the difficulty of transcribing accurately the tone and length of each word. With continuing research it may be possible to reconstruct the Proto-Mondé tone-length system and compare it to the tonal systems of other Tupian languages, those of the Munduruku, Juruna, and Ramarama branches, with a view to determining whether Proto-Tupi was tonal or whether tonality was acquired in the four branches where it exists today.

Keywords: Mondé, Tupi, tone, length, diachronic linguistics

Author: Moore, Denny (Museu Goeldi - MCT, Brazil / Brasilien)

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