Are there any orthographies that use diacritics to mark grammatical tone instead of lexical tone? Or a combination of both?

  • Hello! Welcome to LSE! On this site, we would prefer that you try finding the answer before asking here Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 22:48
  • I don’t think there are any orthographies that mark grammatical tone differently from lexical tone. As far as orthography is concerned, tone is tone, regardless of its origin. How would you mark grammatical tone mutations (or just phonetic tone sandhi) on a lexical tone if you write them in separate ways? Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


In Lingála, the acute accent is used to mark high tone (and less commonly the grave accent for low tone), whether it's lexical or grammatical.

For example, acute accents mark the difference between násála "I might make it" (subjunctive) and nasálá "I made it and it's over and done" (ultimate). The high tone on the root -sál- "make" is lexical (every root has an inherent high or low tone) but the tones on the prefix and suffix are determined by the tense (/aspect/mood).

(Note that the prefix itself is not part of the tense marking: na- indicates first person singular subject. Only the tone of the prefix is.)

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