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Urdu, Hindi: Is there "tone"?

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Qureshpor, Apr 27, 2013.

  1. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Punjabi is considered a "tone" language and Chinese is deemed to be the best example of a tonal language. Do we have anything resembling tone in Urdu or Hindi?

    I had in mind something like..

    jab ek bajaa to vuh ghar aa gayaa

    skuul kii ghanTii bajaa! ek baj gayaa hai!

    Do you feel both words are pronounced identically?

    PS: I have a feeling I might have asked this kind of question but upon searching I did n't find anything. So, apologies in advance if I have.
     
  2. greatbear Senior Member

    India
    India - Hindi & English
    None of Punjabi or Hindi-Urdu are tonal languages to my remotest comprehension: in Chinese, the same word acquires a completely different meaning if said with the wrong tone. Tone is critical in Chinese; I don't see how can "bajaa" (btw, for me the correct grammar is "school kii ghanTii bajii" and "... ghanTaa bajaa") be misunderstood in whatever tone you pronounce it.
     
  3. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Perhaps, I ought to have translated my Urdu, Hindi sentences.

    jab ek bajaa to vuh ghar aa gayaa

    When (the clock) struck one, he came home

    skuul kii ghanTii bajaa! ek baj gayaa hai

    Ring/Strike the school bell! It is One o'clock!

    Punjabi is a tone language. When correctly employed, a Punjabi speaker distinguishes between something "bitter", a "whip" and a "horse", just to give one example of tone usage!

    I am not suggesting that "bajaa" in both senses has the same kind of "tone" as in Punjabi or Chinese. I am asking forum friends if they feel there is a difference in pronunciation between the two "bajaa"s and whether they perceive this as a kind of tone.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
  4. greatbear Senior Member

    India
    India - Hindi & English
    Probably, if you could give examples from Punjabi, it would be clearer, since I don't think that each and every word in Punjabi comes with a prescription of tone (which is what happens in a language like Chinese: every single word has a tone, and that tone has to be pronounced correctly, else the sense will be simply completely different or meaningless). It may be that you are confusing between "tone" and "accent".
     
  5. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    There is no room for confusion here, it is a very well known fact that Punjabi, amongst a couple of other languages of the region is a tonal language. For reference, consult this paper (at the bottom of page one and further on) for a broader perspective:

    http://www.fli-online.org/documents/linguistics/tone_in_np.pdf

    and this from Punjabi: A cognitive-descriptive grammar, Tej K. Bhatia, p. 343 onwards:

    "Punjabi is the only modern Indo-Aryan language which has developed tonal contrasts"

    You'll find numerous examples.
     
  6. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    GB, Punjabi is actually very tonal. Pretty much every major Aryan language north of the Himachal to Multan axis is tonal, with the glaring exception of Kashmiri. Even Shina (north of Kashmiri) goes back to being tonal. For example:
    > Kaar jaavaange (we will go home) - has a tonal inflection
    > Kaar ch'jaavaange (we will go in a car; the ch assimilates into the j when spoken at speed) - flat tone

    To non-Punjabis these usually sound identical, but to Punjabis they are totally different. In Kashmiri also, 'home' is pronounced 'kaar' and so is 'car' but the tones are flat, i.e. the two really do sound alike. This tonality is the biggest distractor when you hear non-Punjabis speaking or singing Punjabi. I think the usual comparison with HU is that Punjabi deaspirates some consonants and replaces aspiration with a tone. The same thing happens with consonant shifts too afaik. So the HU 'Daali' (branch) becomes the Punjabi 'Taali', except the initial part of the word has a tone.
    >'Taali de thalle' (under the branch) - has a tone
    >'Taali jaandaa ai' (keeps delaying it) - flat

    I speak tonally but have a hard time actually describing them. Sorry!

    Reference: From "Crossing boundaries" it seems that Punjabi has four tones. It has an interesting example from Bulleh Shah where the singing would only appear balanced if tones are used, i.e. couldn't be sung in a Seraiki accent properly because that apparently lacks tones (maybe Sindhi and/or Pashto influence depending on region?).

    BTW I realized that I also put tones into other situations not explained by aspiration or consonant shift -
    >'kam kar daiiN yaar!' (please reduce it)
    >'kam kar daiiN yaar!' (please do the work)

    I am definitely saying 'kam' with differing tones in these two. It surprised me how clear the difference was in 'oh kam kam kardaa ai' (he does less work) and 'oh kam kam kardaa ai' (he works less). In one case the first kam is 'less' and the second one is 'work' and in the second sentence they are flipped. It is totally obvious to me which is which.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
  7. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    I suspect Mr. Bhatia is wrong (infact, I know he is wrong). Most Himachali languages and Dogri-Pahari have extensive use of tones. Maybe he considers them Punjabi dialects. Dogri is even more extreme in how it deletes aspirations than Punjabi. It will knock them off the lead position as well. To contrive a sentence:
    > Hazaar haathon meN hathiyaar > Azaar attaaN'ch 'tiyaar - just absolutely brimming with tones

    Infact that last bit will probably sound like one word to most HU people. attaanchtiyaar. Tonal awareness is the only way to decode it.
     
  8. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I agree with you that he is wrong as to the exclusivity of tonal system in Punjabi, that is why I have provided a link where the interested parties can read about many other languages of the region. The part of Mr. Bhatia was submitted by me solely for the purpose of giving evidence and examples to greatbear who suggested to a native speaker that he'd be confusing something. I agree with the rest.
     
  9. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    Ah, understood, marrish saahab!
     
  10. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    ^Great! You will have also noticed which link I gave in the first place. And I agree with the last added bit of your post too. I'm also glad that you haven't had problems understanding the sample sentences from the OP...
     
  11. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    ^I am still mulling QP saahab's initial post. I definitely say it differently and the two 'bajaa' words have different meanings. But am I saying a command differently from a more normal verb or is this tonality imbuing the word with different meanings? I can see it both ways right now. Unsure.
     
  12. greatbear Senior Member

    India
    India - Hindi & English
    Thanks for the detailed explanation, hindiurdu: to a non-native speaker like me, it does sound the same. In Hindi-Urdu at least, to revert back to OP, I don't find tonality: I can imagine Vijay Raaz speaking even the second sentence's "bajaa" in a very flat tone, which many of us won't do probably, and yet both are fine. On the other hand, Deccani does seem to me a tonal language to some extent, but this thread is anyway not about Deccani.
     
  13. greatbear Senior Member

    India
    India - Hindi & English
    It is very interesting to note that for a couple of members here, being a "native speaker" becomes a solid argument whenever they wish to, and otherwise something they pooh-pooh.
     
  14. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    It was specially for you, dear greatbear ;-).

    And now more seriously, it is no question of a solid argument but a matter of mere difference between someone knowing the language and someone who doesn't.
     
  15. greatbear Senior Member

    India
    India - Hindi & English
    ^ The above is the typical argument employed by all who have an intolerance to others' ideas. You have simply fallen into your own trap, and making matters worse by using insulting lines like the one above.
     
  16. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    So I realized I made an error in this. To clarify for the record:
    > Kaar jaavaange (we will go home) - has a tonal inflection in 'kaar' but 'jaavaange' is flat
    > Kaar ch'jaavaange (we will go in a car; the ch assimilates into the j when spoken at speed) - the 'kaar' feels flat, but ch'jaavaange becomes simply 'jaavaange' at speed and takes on a tone

    It continues to be really hard for me to distill these tones out. I know I am using them but high-low/low-high and all that is hard to characterize for me. Don't know why. I can now think of a million examples too btw. One was the HU 'jhaaR' (bush) which is pronounced 'chaaR' with a tone vs 'chaaR' (to put on or climb, related to chaRhaanaa in HU) - 'chaa chaaRi' (put on some tea) which is flat.
     
  17. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ cha_hR (cloudy) vs chaRh! (climb!)

    kaalaa (black) > ka_hlaa (impatient)

    koRaa (bitter/whip) > ko_hRaa (leper) >> k_hoRaa (horse)

    kaTT (cut) > k_haTT (less)

    moraa (large hole), mo_hraa (poison)

    chuuRii (bangle) >> chuu_hRii (sweeper)
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
  18. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    I believe the exclamation mark may be misleading you. Emphasis and tone are different things.

    I should add that I feel the use of tone is a strong marker of Punjabi accent when speaking Hindi/Urdu.
     
  19. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I know what I am talking about with or without an exclamation mark. Also as a person who speaks a tone language, I am well familiar with what tone stands for and what emphasis is.
     
  20. Alfaaz Senior Member

    English
    The only example that comes to mind for Urdu that might fit your description of Punjabi would be (Arabic/Persian origin) words with an ع :
    جالی jaali vs. جعلی jaعli
    جال jaal vs. جعل jaعl
    شعلہ shoعla
    باد baad vs. baعd بعد
    آم aam vs. عaam عام
    باس baas vs. baعth بعث
     
  21. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ Good thinking, Alfaaz SaaHib and I have mentioned this (i.e baad/ba3d distinction in terms of a kind of tone) in other threads. However, in this thread, what I am asking is if Urdu, Hindi speakers note a distinct difference (which, for argument sake we'll denote as a kind of tone") between the "bajaa" in "ek bajaa hai" and "ghanTii bajaa" (this "bajaa" being from the causative "bajaanaa" of "bajnaa").
     
  22. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    But it may also make you hyper-sensitive to tones and see tones where there are not.

    Although, I do see the point you are making quite clearly. I guess we can call this intonation.

    The statement "ek bajaa hai" is a statement has flat intonation.
    The statement "ghanTii bajaa" describes an action and seems to have a slight rising intonation on bajaa.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  23. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you.
     
  24. greatbear Senior Member

    India
    India - Hindi & English
    And thus we would start calling every language tonal: after all, an exclamation mark (imperative sentences) or question mark always implies some rising intonation, regardless of language. If even those would stay in a flat "tone," then we would be entering the world of Fuka-Eri!
     

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