Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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Each dialect of the Sgaw Karen language has a different tonal system. Despite the different number of tones, all of the previous studies agree on the fact that all tones of Sgaw Karen are level tones. However, according to my phonological analysis of the tonal system of Ban Pa La-u Sgaw Karen, this dialect has a contour tone. The tonal system comprises four tones, i.e. /low/, /mid/, /high/ and /falling/ occurring in non-checked syllables. The high and low tones also have allotones in checked syllables. To confirm my analysis of the tonal system and the new finding of a contour tone in this Sgaw Karen dialect, an acoustic analysis of the tones occurring in citation forms was attempted. The analysis included three parts: (1) semitones to illustrate the pitch shape and height; (2) quadratic trendlines to indicate the direction and degree of pitch change; and (3) coefficients to show the generalization of each tone and the discrimination among tones. The fundamental frequencies in hertz of the four tones were measured and then converted into semitone values to help minimize the variations in the pronunciation of the six female speakers. In addition, time and semitone values were used to generate 2nd degree polynomial or quadratic equations and trendlines for which coefficients were plotted to model the pitch contour shapes. The results revealed that: the low tone was mid-falling or low-falling with an obvious degree of pitch change and curved or linear pitch movement; the mid tone was mid level with a less obvious degree of pitch change and wide curved or linear pitch movement; the high tone was mid-high level with a lesser degree of pitch change and wide curved or linear pitch movement; and the falling tone was high-falling with an obvious degree of pitch change and curved pitch movement. In checked syllables, the low and high tones were realized as low-falling and high-falling respectively. The low tone had a greater degree of pitch change than the other; however, both had curved pitch movement.

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