LINGUIST List 14.977

Wed Apr 2 2003

Sum: Tone Letters

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <stevelinguistlist.org>


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  1. Stahlke, Herbert F.W., Summary of responses on tone letters

Message 1: Summary of responses on tone letters

Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 11:01:34 -0500
From: Stahlke, Herbert F.W. <hstahlkebsu.edu>
Subject: Summary of responses on tone letters

On 3/21/03, I posted a query (Linguist 14.850) asking for advice on
how to construct tone letters using any standard font system:

I've been looking, unsuccessfully, for fonts that contain a variety
tone letters or, perhaps, components that can combine into more
complex tone letters. The SIL Encore fonts provide level and simple
contour tone letters but nothing for, for example, Mandarin
falling-rising or for the different contour tones of Vietnamese.
Also, the SIL fonts don't allow one to indicate differences in length
with tone letters. I've looked through Unicode fonts and, while there
are simple tone letters, Unicode appears to offer no tone letter
components either. However, I haven't fully mastered Unicode yet, so
I may have missed something. Google searches have also failed to turn
up much. I will be happy to report back to Linguist-L any information
I receive.

I am grateful to the following people for responding:

Benedetta Bassetti 
Michael Bernstein
Michael Emonts
Rebecca Larche Moreton
Simon Musgrave 
R�my Viradez

Several solutions to the problem of representing tone were discussed,
the most thorough being a reference to Simon Musgrave's earlier
posting and summary on a similar question, which can be found at
(Linguist 13.681). Simon investigated tone notation that could be
used in a Microsoft Access database. Since none of the existing
systems accommodate a sufficient range of tone levels and tone
combinations to represent tonal phenomena across languages accurately,
Simon recommended the use of superscript numerals and numeral
sequences after the lexical item, a solution that Unicode supports and
that is compatible with Access. I refer readers to Simon's excellent
summary for further information.

Michael Bernstein, of Cascadilla Press expressed interest in
developing the necessary fonts to supplement the Arboreal and Moraic
fonts they have already developed for the linguistics community.

R�my Viredaz recommended using Linguist's Software fonts
(www.linguistsoftware.com)
 for Macintosh because of the ease and flexibility with which they 
handle diacritics.

Michael Emonts notes the widespread use for Chinese of Yuen Ren Chao's
convention using numbers to represent five tone levels and sequences
of numbers to represent contour tones

Benedetta Bassetti notes the problem of representing Chinese tones
with accents, especially where combinations of accents are required
that are not supported in such standard fonts as Times New Roman or
Arial. She suggests several substitutes for diacritics not found in
the various IPA fonts and mentions the further difficulty of making
pinyin fonts appear in .pdf files.

The question I raised, however, remains unanswered: how to produce
more complex tone letters like those proposed originally by Chao, a
vertical bar with lines attaching from the left illustrating
iconically the nature of the tone or contour. SILIPA93 offers several
tone letters but not enough to cover more complex cases.

Thanks to all who responded.

Herb Stahlke
Ball State University
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