Monday, January 31, 2011

Transcribing Tones

I’ve settled on the following transcription system for the tones of Taishanese. This schema is different from the one you’ll find in the Basic Course.

mid high low low falling mid falling
a ā ä à

Diacritics can be a bit sloppy. They don’t work with all fonts. Here I use Georgia, which doesn’t support all the diacritics, and so the browser swaps in an entirely different font to represent the unsupported glyphs. These diacritics are almost never on letters like m or n—letters used to transcribe tone-carrying syllables for words like 唔 and 吳 n̈g. Here’s what I get when I try to write out the tones with m and ng.

mid high low low falling mid falling
ng n̄g n̈g ṇg ǹg

Until they’re fully supported in a nice widely-used font I like, I’ll just have to make do.

There’s one more issue with transcribing tones: the changed tones. In certain contexts, the non-high tones may turn into rising or dipping tones. For example, the character 部 is pronounced with a mid falling tone when read alone. But when used to mean a notebook, the tone is mid falling-then-rising (or mid “dipping”). To transcribe the final rise, I use an asterisk: bù*.

I’m very open to other suggestions on transcription, so let me know if you have some better ideas.

1 comment:

  1. this is a great transcription. macron for high makes sense; unmarked for mid tone is good because it's probably the most common tone (and also the result of a merger of the Upper "Level" and "Departing" tones); the dot for low falling reminds you there's some creak to it, and is reminiscent of the Vietnamese low creaky tone; and the other low non-creaky tone uses an umlaut which looks like "breathy" and also "level" at the same time.