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Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Aural and oral characteristics of the Thai language

Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby andytan23 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:35 pm

Hi, I would like to know if words with rising tone change their tone when paired with another word to become a low tone? To my Chinese ears (I'm saying this because I am pretty sensitive to tones as I am a native Chinese speaker), it sounds to me as if the words' tone is changed when paired with another word. For example, the เหมือน in เหมือนกัน has a rising tone, but when it is paired together with กัน it kind of sounds like the tone has been changed to the low tone. Is it just me or my ability to differentiate between tones is deteriortating? :lol: :lol:
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby David and Bui » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:48 pm

Thank you for your post, Andy. I am not aware of any tonal change rule of the sort you are describing. However, there is a case where another tone rule in common speech overrides the inherent tone of a word, that is, the emphasis tones overlying word repetitions. The most common example is the spoken "มาก ๆ" (very, very much) where the first sounding is given a high tone, instead of a falling tone, and the second sounding is given a low tone. An example applied to a word with a rising tone is "เหนียว ๆ" (really sticky). Again, the first sounding is spoken with a high tone, and the second with a low tone.

Can you provide more examples of where you are hearing a lost tone? Thanks.
David in Phuket
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby andytan23 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 4:07 pm

David and Bui wrote:Thank you for your post, Andy. I am not aware of any tonal change rule of the sort you are describing. However, there is a case where another tone rule in common speech overrides the inherent tone of a word, that is, the emphasis tones overlying word repetitions. The most common example is the spoken "มาก ๆ" (very, very much) where the first sounding is given a high tone, instead of a falling tone, and the second sounding is given a low tone. An example applied to a word with a rising tone is "เหนียว ๆ" (really sticky). Again, the first sounding is spoken with a high tone, and the second with a low tone.

Can you provide more examples of where you are hearing a lost tone? Thanks.


Thank you for your reply! I can't seem to think of any examples right now :? But I have noticed this several times when my Thai friends speak. But back to the example I gave, does the เหมือน in เหมือนกัน sound like it has a rising tone or a low tone to you when it is spoken by native speakers? I am curious because I don't know if it is just me who thinks it sounds like a low tone.
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby David and Bui » Thu Dec 29, 2016 5:14 pm

I can't think of a reason that the first word might have a different tone because of the presence of กัน, save for the situation in whicch the "เหมือน" is emphasized in speaking. Tone shifts in actual speech, taking into account the subtleties of Thai intonation, may differ by speaker, regional dialect, and age.

There is another class of tone shift, this one in accordance with the rules and exceptions. This one involves the influence of the first syllable of a word on the second syllable. This seems to have evolved over time and has become a standard feature of the language. Examples include:

ตำรวจ (dtamM ruaatL) where one would expect a falling tone in the second syllable
ประโยชน์ (bpraL yo:htL) same anomaly
อดิเรก (aL diL raehkL) same

For a fuller listing, see Section 4 at http://www.thai-language.com/ref/irregular-words.
David in Phuket
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby bifftastic » Thu Dec 29, 2016 6:08 pm

I think it might be because of emphasis, or the lack of it. When you hear เหมือนกัน the first word can be spoken quite quickly, so it might sound like the rising tone isn't emphasised as much as when someone might be saying เหมือน or ไม่เหมือน where they will make a point of emphasising the rising tone, as it is, at that time, a stand alone word.

I don't think the tone is actually changed, it's just harder to notice when it's spoken quickly as in เหมือนกัน which has, to my ears anyway, more emphasis on กัน
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby Richard Wordingham » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:50 am

Bifftastic's explanation seems the most credible.

Apparently, the key cue that Thais use nowadays to recognise the rising tone of Siamese is that its pitch goes the lowest of any tone. The original purpose of this is to get a clear rise in tone. However, if the tone contour is being truncated, a foreigner might well hear it as the low tone instead.

There is a similar effect in Northern Thai, but I can't find a description.
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby Tgeezer » Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:12 am

bifftastic wrote:I think it might be because of emphasis, or the lack of it. When you hear เหมือนกัน the first word can be spoken quite quickly, so it might sound like the rising tone isn't emphasised as much as when someone might be saying เหมือน or ไม่เหมือน where they will make a point of emphasising the rising tone, as it is, at that time, a stand alone word.

I don't think the tone is actually changed, it's just harder to notice when it's spoken quickly as in เหมือนกัน which has, to my ears anyway, more emphasis on กัน

I think like you biffastic. ไม่รู้เมือนกัน seems to be the way it is said. It is pretty difficult to make a rising tone after a high finish unless you separate the words properly and most people don't.
คับที่อยู่ได้คับใจอยู่ยาก
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Re: Does rising tone word change its tone when paired?

Postby Toffeeman » Mon Jan 23, 2017 1:04 am

bifftastic wrote:I think it might be because of emphasis, or the lack of it.


This is also how I understand it. When I 1st started hearing the tones more in speech it seemed to me that to speak clearly the last tone of a word or syllable was the important one to get right but other tones of earlier syllables could be flattened out a little. That doesn't mean they are said in middle tone but rather you don't emphasize the tone. Thais will say the tone more subtlely than a foreigner.

One of the challenges for a foreigner to speak nice, flowing Thai is to be able do subtle tones, without emphasizing every tone in the word but also not missing any. I asked my Thai teacher many years ago about this flattening out of the tones when you don't emphasize them and he didn't agree but to my ear that was what I was hearing.

Interestingly I had just 1 Chinese lesson a couple of years ago (it was free) and I asked her to run through the Chinese tones as I am now used to a tonal language. Almost the 1st thing she said was you don't need to emphasize the tones on every syllable. I was pleased to hear it as it confirmed my theory about Thai tones.

So the tones might appear flat or low tone but probably there is a subtle rising tone that your ear will pick up.
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