LINGUIST List 14.1052

Tue Apr 8 2003

Sum: Tone Letters (Update)

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Stahlke, Herbert F.W., Summary: Tone Letters (update)

Message 1: Summary: Tone Letters (update)

Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2003 14:59:02 -0500
From: Stahlke, Herbert F.W. <>
Subject: Summary: Tone Letters (update)

Since posting my Tone Letters summary (Linguist 14.977), I've received
from Stanley Whitley precisely the information I was looking for, so
I'll add that here (Original Query: Linguist 14.850):

Stan writes:

You don't want accents, numerals, etc. but a fuller range of tone
letters. Your solution:

1. Yes, the standard SIL Encore font only has a few of the possible
tone letters in the Chao system. But SIL also sells a "glyph library",
a huge collection of additional TrueType symbols, including lots more
tone letters as well as virtually every phonetic symbol that's ever
been used, which the user just selects from and assembles into his own
customized font using a program such as Fontographer.

2. Then, if there are any other tone letters you need outside that
collection, it's very easy, in Fontographer, to take a similar "glyph"
(the electronic outline of a character), adjust a part on-screen, then
save it into the customized font as a new character. You could make
anything project out of Chao's vertical bar that you wanted, including
something for "low-rising-high-fast-falling-then-vocal-trill" if so

Many thanks to Stan.

Stephen Anderson adds a (La)TeX solution:

The tips font, which has become part of at least some standard LaTeX
distributions (such as Gerben Weirda's distributions for Mac OS X)
includes a facility for a complete set of such symbols. to quote from
the documentation, " TIPA provides a flexible system of macros for
'tone letters.' A tone letter is represented by a macro called "\tone"
which takes one argument consisting of a a string of numbers ranging
from 1 to 5. These numbers represent pitch levels, 1 being the lowest
and 5 the highest. Within this range, any combination is allowed and
there is no limit to the length of combination." The documentation
then goes on to give examples from inputs like

\tone{55}ma ``mother'', \tone{35}ma ``hemp''
\tone{214}ma ``horse'' \tone{51}ma ``scold''

which produce more or less perfect Chao-style tone letters immediately
preceding the segmental material. I have never tried this to see what
would happen if you gave it \tone{241315} or the like, but the clear
implication is that it could handle even that.

Of course this is of no particular interest to those who only use
Micro$oft Word or the like, but if you can use LaTeX (which offers
lots of other advantages for linguists, there's no problem.

Many thanks to Stephen.

Herb Stahlke
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