How To Study a Tone Language

edited by Steven Bird and Larry Hyman
to appear in Language Documentation and Conservation

Accepted Papers (in progress)

  1. Computational support for early elicitation and classification of tone, Steven Bird (University of Melbourne), Haejoong Lee (University of Pennsylvania), Quynh-Chi Nguyen (University of Melbourne)
  2. Strategies for analyzing tone languages, Alexander R Coupe (Nanyang Technological University)
  3. Finding a way into a family of tone languages: The story and methods of the Chatino Language Documentation Project, Emiliana Cruz (University of Massachusetts at Amherst), Anthony C. Woodbury (University of Texas at Austin)
  4. How to study a tone language, Larry M. Hyman (University of California, Berkeley)
  5. Studying emergent tone-systems in Nepal: pitch, phonation and word-tone in Tamang, Martine Mazaudon (CNRS, France)
  6. The Study of tone and related phenomena in an Amazonian tone language: Gavião of Rondônia, Denny Moore and Julien Meyer (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Brasil)
  7. Studying tones in North East India – Tai, Singpho and Tangsa, Stephen Morey (LaTrobe University, Australia)
  8. The study of tone in languages with a quantity contrast, Bert Remijsen (University of Edinburgh)
  9. On beginning the study of the tone system of a Dene (Athabaskan) language: Looking back, Keren Rice (University of Toronto)
  10. On Establishing Underlying Tonal Contrast, Keith Snider (SIL)
  11. The experimental state of mind in elicitation: illustrations from tonal fieldwork , Kristine M. Yu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Call for Papers

The goal of this themed set of papers is to collect practical wisdom which has been built up over many years of investigating the world’s tone languages. We expect the volume to be a comprehensive collection of the most effective methods for documenting, describing, and analyzing tone languages.

Contributions will focus on the methodology for studying tone languages, including elicitation practice, stages of description, descriptive pitfalls, and so on. Papers that simply present and analyze tone data are out of scope; a substantive methodological contribution must be made.

Appropriate topics and approaches include:
  • Management: approaches to elicitation and data management specific to tone; getting started; working with native-speaker linguists
  • Documentation: ways to document the tone system of a language which minimally prejudice the later description and analysis; ways to study a tone language using archived materials
  • Narrative: an instructive and reflective study of a language
  • Computational: computational methods that support tonal investigations
  • Typological: how to leverage knowledge about related languages
  • Phonetic: how to combine impressionistic and instrumental observations; appropriate ways to incorporate recordings; accountability of transcriptions
  • Diachronic: how to study the evolution of tone systems; how to reconstruct a proto tone system
  • Development: how to contribute to a linguistic community’s expressed need for support with orthography decisions and effective ways to teach tone marking
  • Data: a systematic presentation of tone data which highlights a methodological issue
  • Additional ideas of topics and approaches may be found at
This themed set of papers has grown out of two workshops on tone languages (Berkeley February 2011, Canberra December 2011), and it continues the focus of those workshops on methodology. Submissions are invited from workshop participants and non-participants alike.

The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2013. For information about the submission process, please consult the website of Language Documentation and Conservation, at