I recently learned (in this forum) that natural classes of tones are posited based on the tendency of members of those classes to act together (that is, I suppose, to have the same effect based on a rule).

In the same way that [p, t, k, ch] act together in many languages, so too do some tones.

I guess this means that Rising tones may pattern with High Tones (but not the opposite) and Falling tones may pattern with Low tones (but not the opposite), but I'm just grasping at straws here.

I learn best from examples in real languages, but I have trouble finding a relatively easy example of natural classes of tones.

Can someone help me understand this a little better? I'm so close, but just struggle conceptualising. Thanks!

  • I've never heard about "classes of" lexical tones. Also, what do you mean by "tone X patterns with tone Y"? Did you mean some historic aspect? E.g., the Proto-Tai had 3 tones (plus one non-phonemic one), and then each tone had split in two (forming, indeed, pairs like Rising/High), and then several of those have been subsequently merged back, leaving 5 lexical tones in modern Thai. Did you mean that?
    – bytebuster
    Dec 1 '16 at 5:55
  • It comes from an answer to my previous question: "representing tone in feature matrices "
    – Teusz
    Dec 1 '16 at 18:26
  • "The problem of contours really stems from the need to group together subsets of tones into "natural classes", because in rule systems, particular subsets of tones often act together. So just as [p t tʃ k] often act together in a way that [p t tʃ l] do not, you find recurrent groupings in tonology. The interesting thing is that the possible groupings looks completely unconstrained if you just look at the tone-pairings, but if you look at the pairings plus their order relative to the trigger sets (and the composition of the set), tone groupings become very limited."
    – Teusz
    Dec 1 '16 at 18:26
  • ^^ from @user6726
    – Teusz
    Dec 1 '16 at 18:27

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