LINGUIST List 11.72

Sun Jan 16 2000

Sum: for Query:10.1740 Functional Load

Editor for this issue: James Yuells <>


  1. David R. Bogdan, for Query:10.1740 Functional Load

Message 1: for Query:10.1740 Functional Load

Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 12:42:50 +0900
From: David R. Bogdan <>
Subject: for Query:10.1740 Functional Load

Dear Linguists,

 I posted the following query to the Linguist List
(dated Mon, 15 Nov 1999 16:42:46 GMT with subject
""Functional Load" Query").

 I'm interested in the origins and use of the term
"functional load". Any information and/or pointers to
sources would be appreciated.

 There were nine responses to this query, and I include
(with some editing due to space considerations) below those
eight for which I received permission to do so.
 In the response numbered 5, Mike Cahill sent two
attachments. In a followup e-mail, he asks me to note that
the "Avoiding Tone Marks" paper is going to be appearing in
SIL's Notes on Literacy journal soon. He has the files
in either PDF or MSWord format, and interested parties should
contact him directly ( Accordingly, I
do not include copies here.
 If in my editing, I've mistakenly removed something
important or left in something I should not have, I

Thanks again,


Sabbatical Address (4/1/1999 - 3/31/2000)
David R. Bogdan $B!!(B
Faculty of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University
Aoba-ku, Kawauchi, Sendai 980-8576 JAPAN
Voice: 81-22$B!](B217$B!](B5995 Fax: 81-22-217-5994

Clifford Lutton
 "MindSpring User" <>
Joaquim Brand$B5P(B de Carvalho
 Joaquim Brand$B5P(B de Carvalho <>
James J.Jenkins
Michael Swan
 "Michael Swan" <>
Larry Trask (Larry Trask)
Laurie Bauer
 Laurie Bauer <>
Bert Peeters
 Bert Peeters <>
Martin Kay

From: "MindSpring User" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 16:02:35 -0500

 As I use the term, the functional load (in
distinguishing meanings) of tone (as a linguistic
phenomenon) tends to be higher in monosyllabic tonal
languages than in polysyllabic tonal languages (in which the
functional load of other phonemes in morphemes is higher).
I hope this helps.
Clifford Lutton LearningEXperiencES


Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 22:08:36 +0100
From: Joaquim Brand$B5P(B de Carvalho <>


I think that one of the main sources of this term is
Martinet's essay on diachronic phonology - Economie des
changements phonetiques. 1st ed. Bern : Francke, 1955 -,
where "functional load" (fr. rendement fonctionnel) has a
double definition. Contrasts between two *phonemes* have a
certain FL according to the number of minimal lexical pairs
that can be distinguished thanks to these phonemes ;
contrasts between two *features* (or two values of a
feature) show variable FL according to the number of
phonemes that can be distinguished by these features. For
ex., the FL of the /th/ : /dh/ opposition in English is
almost null on lexical grounds, but +/-voice has a strong FL
in the English phonemic system (hence the preservation of
/th/ : /dh/, according to this functional theory).

Best wishes.

Joaquim Brandao de Carvalho

Departement de linguistique
Faculte des Sciences Humaines et Sociales - Sorbonne
Universite Rene Descartes - Paris V


Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 17:07:17 EST

I have nothing by memory to go on but I believe that the
term was invented by Joseph H. Greenberg. He used it in
the summer of 1953 at the Linguistic Institute at Indiana
Univ. It may also be employed in the Psycholinguistic
Monograph that we all wrote that summer. C. E. Osgood and
T. Sebeok were the editors and it was published as a
supplement to the Journal of Social and Abnormal Psychology
and simultaneously as a supplement to the International
Journal of American Linguistics (the only time such a dual
publication occurred to my knowledge.)
hope this is useful.

James J.Jenkins
Distinguished Research Professor
Psychology Dept,
University of South Florida


Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 08:15:11 +0000
From: "Michael Swan" <>

Gimson used 'functional load' in 'An Introduction to the
Pronunciation of English'. There's an example on page 191
of the fourth edition (Edward Arnold 1989). The first
edition, which I'm certain also contained the term, was
published in 1962. Gimson puts it in scare quotes, which
suggests that it was a novelty at the time when he first
used it.

Michael Swan


Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 08:35:32 -0500

Dear David,

Hi! I'm with SIL, and a few years ago I wrote a paper for
circulation within Ghana on marking tones in orthographies,
which has some stuff on functional load. I attach that, and
also another file which has some related scribbles. These
are a bit old, and perhaps more has been done by others in a
more sophisticated way, but when we in SIL are developing
orthographies for languages which have not been previously
written at all, "functional load" is always in our minds,
though we may not always think of that term. Enjoy, and I
would REALLY be interested in what other responses you get.
All the best to you!

Mike Cahill
International Linguistics Coordinator, SIL


Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 17:01:51 +0000
From: (Larry Trask)

As the concept and its name perhaps suggest, functional load
was introduced by the Prague School. In particular, I
think, it was introduced by Nikolai Trubetzkoy, and, as far
as I know, the term appeared for the first time in print in
Trubetzkoy's 1939 book Grundzuege der Phonologie, later
translated into English as Principles of Phonology. But the
idea was quickly picked up by Andre Martinet, who used it in
his 1940 book Elements de Linguistique Fonctionnelle, later
translated as Elements of Functional Linguistics. Martinet,
as I recall -- and here I'm struggling to remember the stuff
I read in my student days, back in the Bronze Age -- had a
good deal to say about functional load in his later
writings, and he perhaps deserves credit for making the
concept prominent among western linguists, but Trubetzkoy
introduced it.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH


Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 14:54:06 +1300
From: Laurie Bauer <>

This is used by Martinet in his Economie des changements
(1955) (if I recall the reference properly), though I am not
sure whether it originated with him.
Laurie Bauer

Programme Director for Linguistics
School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Wellington New Zealand


Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 13:32:52 +1100
From: Bert Peeters <>

Hi David,

I have a pointer for you -- that is, if you read French. I
published a book in 1992 on *Diachronie, phonologie, et
linguistique fonctionnelle* (Louvain: Peeters), which has an
entire chapter (chapter 5) on the notion of "rendement
fonctionnel", with special reference as to how it was used
in Andr;Martinet's functional linguistics.

Hope this is useful.

Dr Bert Peeters
School of English & European Languages & Literatures
University of Tasmania


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