Does marking tone make tone languages easier to read?

Harvey Bernard, George N. Mbeh, W. Penn Handwerker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Among designers of orthographies for previously nonwritten languages, the prevailing wisdom is that native speakers of tone languages need to see at least some tones marked to achieve full literacy in those languages. A counter argument is that marking tone confuses native speakers of tone languages. We report here on an experiment on tone marking in Kom, a language of the Grassfields region of Cameroon. The results show that, for Kom at least, tone marking makes written sentences harder to figure out initially, harder to say, and harder to say correctly. Comparative research using refinements of the methodology described here will help us answer important questions, like whether or not these effects vary with the number of tones in a language or with the linguistic function of tones. The knowledge gained from comparative experiments will help speakers of the world's nonliterary languages achieve popular literacy in those languages. Popular literacy, we argue, is one of a small number of things that promotes the survival of language diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-349
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Organization
Volume61
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

language
literacy
Language
Tone Marking
Tone Language
orthography
Cameroon
experiment
comparative research
wisdom
linguistics
Literacy
methodology
Native Speaker
Experiment

Keywords

  • Field experiments
  • Indigenous literacy
  • Kom
  • Orthographies
  • Tone languages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

Does marking tone make tone languages easier to read? / Bernard, Harvey; Mbeh, George N.; Handwerker, W. Penn.

In: Human Organization, Vol. 61, No. 4, 01.01.2002, p. 339-349.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Bernard, Harvey ; Mbeh, George N. ; Handwerker, W. Penn. / Does marking tone make tone languages easier to read?. In: Human Organization. 2002 ; Vol. 61, No. 4. pp. 339-349.
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