TODAY -

Is Manipuri a Tonal Language ?

James Oinam *



By instinct many Manipuris and those who know Manipuri language (by that I mean Meetei/Meitei lon throughout the article) feel that just by changing the tone of a word you can mean very different things in Manipuri language. This is the basic quality of a tonal language.

But the question that naturally comes to mind is "how many tones are there in the Manipuri language?"

While flipping a few pages of the book "Manipuri Grammar: A Supplement" authored by Nand Lal Sharma, I came upon tonal classification of Manipuri language by the author. The author identifies two tones in the language:
(1) Falling Tone and
(2) High Tone.

Tone has been defined as "a psychological impression obtained from the physical frequency of sounds" (refer website link in References).

Some authors have identified three tones in Manipuri language:
(1) Rising Tone,
(2) Falling Tone, and
(3) Level Tone (Tomchau Singh uses the terms Light, Heavy, and Middle, respectively).

Although tones are said to be "psychological impression", I have done recording of various Manipuri words of interest on the Audacity software and taken "screenshots" so that we can "see" how they look.

Figure 1. Two Tones of Nand Lal Sharma
Figure 1. Two Tones of Nand Lal Sharma



Let us begin with the two tones of Nand Lal Sharma (Figure 1). I have recorded a Falling Tone and a High Tone words alternatively. The words La (banana leaf), Mee (person), and Hu (poison) are Falling Tones.

The words Ta (spear), Hee (boat), and Yu (liquor) are High Tones.
(Please note I have not used diacritics anywhere. Nand Lal proposes using "grave" accent mark for falling tone and no accent mark for High Tone. Other authors recommend "grave", "bar", and "acute" accent marks.)

A general observation that can be made from the figure is that Falling Tones have sharp beginning.

Figure 2. Rising Tone - Khong
Figure 2. Rising Tone - Khong



Now we go to Figure 2 for the third, Rising Tone, as proposed by others. In Figure 2, the words spoken alternatively are "leg" and "canal" in Manipuri.

According to author like Inder Singh, the Manipuri word for "leg" has Falling Tone and the word for "canal" has a Rising Tone. Notice the sharp beginning in one corresponding to Falling Tone of Nand Lal Sharma.

The question is do you think the other word "looks" like the High Tone of Nand Lal Sharma.

With inputs from friends on social media, I have recorded few more words. These will highlight the lengthened nature of some High Tones (as per Nand Lal's classification).

Some authors (P.C. Thoudam) claim that the different in length is due to the "environment" (website link). I have done recordings of one-syllable words to "minimize environmental influence".

 Figure 3. Third Tone
Figure 3. Third Tone



Please refer Figure 3. The words for "rotate", "flower", and "tongue" are spoken alternatively.

I feel the difference between "flower" and "tongue" in Manipur is very slight, if at all. Perhaps, they will not qualify as different tones.

But if we look at words for "person" and "spider", the difference in length is quite perceptible.

Whether there are two tones or more, I believe the question is where you want to set the boundary.

Finally, we come to the question asked at the beginning, "Is Manipuri a tonal language?"

When we look at the list of High Tones and Falling Tones and Rising Tones, we find many words which depend on the tones instead of its consonants and vowel.

So I think, if it is not a tonal language, Manipuri definitely has strong tendency towards being a tonal language.

Also, it is possible that the language had more "tonal words" in the past than it has now.

References

Sharma, Nand Lal (1988). Manipuri Grammar: A Supplement.
Published by Hidangmayum Bihari Sharma Sangaiprou Airport Road, Imphal.
https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/16844/7/07_chapter%202.pdf


* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on August 26, 2020 .


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.


LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Sajibu Nongma Panba Shopping : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Importance of film preservation: Cine Dialogue
  • Decline in number of Cinema Halls
  • Moment With My Pen :: Poem
  • Michelangelo in my drawing room
  • Get vaccinated call
  • Nongpok Ningthou Phoudamba #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba (Meitei New Year Day) :: Book
  • Golden Jubilee of Manipuri Cinema : Report
  • Think it differently
  • 2nd wave poses an increasing danger
  • Interesting twist to pending ADC elections
  • Yaoshang Sports @Laipubam : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Of Nambul River & Prof Rajendra Ksh #2
  • Lok Adalat at various places in Manipur
  • Covid-19 Survey : for science community
  • A Slave or A Master ! :: Poem
  • Spiritual flight journey
  • Workshop on NEP at Lilong
  • Old Manipuri Movie #2 : eRang Classic
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Yurreipem, Zingyo, Changton: eMing
  • can the dignity of menstruation be increased
  • Incentivize vaccination for success
  • Need for Flexible Education in Manipur
  • MoU with Film Heritage Foundation
  • Unwanted deafening silence
  • Hun : Thadou biggest cultural festival
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Licypriya addressed UN Youth Forum 2021
  • Status of women in the 21st century
  • ..we will fail to achieve Health For All
  • Monolith at Manipuri cinema Golden Jubilee
  • Complaint filed to MHRC on Sanaton death
  • Indifference to the fast spread of virus
  • Abridged Translation of Sanamahi Laihui #2
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Ningtham Kummei @JNMDA #2 : Gallery
  • Career in Poultry Science
  • Form independent investigation commission
  • Need of actions to control air pollution
  • Politics surrounding call for ADC polls
  • Nongpok Ningthou Phoudamba #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Journalists' Sports Meet #2 : Gallery
  • COVID test a must for all incoming flight
  • World Autism Awareness Day 2021
  • Architects @ Makok Technologies, Keinou
  • Bridge :: Poem
  • Second wave spreading swiftly
  • Yaoshang: Cooking Competition : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • World Veterinary Day, 2021
  • What is it in the name? Famous 'Michaels'
  • The Last Night :: Poem
  • Rehabilitating drug users
  • When Money matters, sincerity is out
  • Cultural Fest of Manipur #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Mai-Own : Produces from Manipur #3: Gallery
  • 'Manipur Model' of Homestays gets booster
  • Manipur Lokayukta: Today's Imperative
  • Second wave could delay economic recovery
  • Give teeth to war on drugs
  • Thabal Chongba @Bamon Leikai #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • The Joy of Easter Sunday
  • What's happening in Myanmar
  • Easter : A strange & unique celebration
  • For One To Faithful :: Poem
  • Executive member : Physics Academy NE
  • Abridged Translation of Sanamahi Laihui #1
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Relief @ Rajaimei, Senapati : Gallery
  • The Ultimate Sacrifice
  • ST demand may become redundant
  • Addiction to drugs & alcohol
  • NHPC visit 510 MW Teesta-V
  • Creating space for super spreader
  • Day 3: Yaoshang Sports Meet : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Journalists' Sports Meet #1 : Gallery
  • World Autism Awareness Day 2021
  • Cut Money: The Virus of Illfare in Welfare
  • Vigyan Vidushi : Physics for women students
  • Mulling over the absolute
  • Arrest of former Salai Chairman
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipur Champion in Natl Thang-Ta C'ship
  • Yaoshang Pichakari : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn the Manipuri script
  • We are all Human ! :: Poem
  • Adequate nutrition for productive society
  • ADC elections assured, but when? ATSUM
  • Thabal Chongba @Bamon Leikai #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 30 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • April Calendar for Year 2021 : Tools
  • Marathon Race- Kanglei Sports: Gallery
  • Paradise found. Paradise made.
  • AR organises anti drug awareness campaign
  • Fire @ Shirui, Ukhrul [Mar 29] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Yaoshang MeiThaba @Kwakeithel: Gallery
  • Relief at Rajaimei & Tumuyon Khullen
  • Mask up to beat the second Covid wave
  • Yaoshang MeiThaba @Bamon Leikai: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Promotion of science @Senapati : Gallery
  • In need of a savior: the wailing of Myanmar
  • Science Awareness Programme at Senapati
  • World Sleep Day 2021 #2
  • AR interacts with ex-servicemen
  • Journalists' Sports Meet- Opening : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Film Preservation & Archiving Workshop
  • Fullmoon :: Poem
  • Appeal for assistance to Myanmar victims
  • Holi colour can cause dangerous side-effect
  • Training Program on Mushroom Cultivation
  • On Equality
  • Saroi Khangba @Imphal #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Mai-Own : Produces from Manipur #2: Gallery
  • War on drugs & sports movement
  • Yaoshang (Holi) Festival :: Book
  • Will advances in TB outweigh Covid-19 ?
  • Expecting Rs 14567 crore from the Centre
  • Still making waves in the the year 2021
  • War on Drugs: The uncheck loopholes
  • Junior Men & Women Hockey : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Account Assistant @ Amber & Arthur, Imphal
  • Principle of Self Determination & Peace
  • A Poem's Story
  • NDPP delegation visited Assam
  • Climbing cases in the last few days
  • Human Rights issues & Tangkhul Women #4
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • World Water Day Water
  • The Night :: Poem
  • Demand to book Lamhainamdi incident
  • Five Films for Freedom, LGBTIQ+ campaign
  • Touch stance with look at past 'mistakes'
  • For a little bit more
  • Mai-Own : Produces from Manipur #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamjing Meira Episode 1 - AMAND Ladies
  • World Sleep Day 2021 #1
  • Science Awareness Program at Wabagai
  • Towards Special Agricultural Zone in Manipur
  • Office Bearers- Manipur Soccer Futsal Assn
  • Of forest and water in the world
  • Chingu Paokhollei Leirang - Ingellei
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipur: Team champion, Natl Bodybuilding
  • One Midsummer Dream :: Poem
  • Public auction theory & policy
  • BJP likely to retain Assam
  • Imagination: Not a child's play
  • Climbing cases across the country
  • TAPASYA Foundation day #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Of Nambul River & Prof Rajendra Ksh #1
  • Khengjang-Yangoulen Fish Conservation
  • Workshop on NEP 2020 at Manipur Univ
  • Cyclist Philem Rohan reached Bengaluru
  • Delhi Citizens extend solidarity with Myanmar
  • Create ADCs first ultimatum
  • Saroi Khangba @Imphal #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Measures to contain COVID-19 in Yaoshang
  • Science Education @ Chandel : Gallery
  • Consultants @ The Property Geo, Imphal
  • The Myanmar crisis & our options
  • Whither Homeland... :: Poem
  • Course in Kinanthropometry
  • Awareness of science education in SC school
  • Understanding value of 'Time' & 'Money'
  • Human Rights issues & Tangkhul Women #3
  • Book- 'Critics forum Manipur' : Gallery
  • Realization in the dark :: Poem
  • 39th Orientation Program at MU
  • Gauri Healthy Heart Mission at Kakching
  • State of democracy in Thailand : Discussion
  • Disturbing reports of deaths
  • Stop sand mining from River bank
  • Sharungbam Rameshor: Yuva Puraskar
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Brewing Bio Entrepreneurships in Manipur
  • Mayasvi festival of the Tsou of Taiwan
  • Accountants at R-Square Design
  • Myanmar Memories
  • Staring at second wave of the virus
  • Inauguration and Launching Galore
  • Shopping List for Shivaratri #2: Gallery
  • Causes & solutions of unemployment
  • Where Fate Leads :: Poem
  • 'Dry fish' from Chittagong
  • Education for CWSN
  • ST demand: Gearing up for stir
  • Gadgets matters
  • Houses @Yangkhullen, Senapati : Gallery
  • World War II, INA & Manipuri Literature #3
  • Is there a perfect referee in football ?
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • The way to equal future
  • The magic of Coriander in skincare
  • From a high of 426 to zero
  • So far so good
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #20
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Mushroom training @MayangImphal: Gallery
  • Periodic, free & fair elections #2
  • Hinges and his beloved :: Poem
  • Meetei tribe wont grab land of hill tribes
  • Four years in office & looking ahead
  • 4 years of citizen centric govt
  • Human Rights issues & Tangkhul Women #2
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Eco-Tourism @CheiraoChing : Gallery
  • International Day of Action for Rivers
  • Save Myanmar, Save Humanism
  • 6th webinar 'Career opportunity in IT Industry'
  • Civil Services Examination 2021
  • Stand of others on ATSUM's demand?
  • Rih-Ngai Fest @Kakhulong : Gallery
  • Solution to surging congestion in Imphal
  • The paper once I valued most :: Poem
  • Jobs at Trueblue Taxi Imphal
  • Twelve profits of office
  • Kerala could repeat electoral history
  • ADC election should not be undermined
  • Shopping List for Shivaratri #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Shivaratri - The night of blissful awareness
  • Aries Haoneo Kuki - new song release
  • Moreh : India's Gateway to ASEAN
  • Career option as makeup artist
  • Webinar on 75 Years of India's Independence
  • Training Program on Mushroom Cultivation
  • Need to save environment: Green Manipur
  • Banning of Thabal Chongba
  • Imphal City from Nongmai Ching #2: Gallery
  • Aries Haoneo Kuki : Singer Profile :: eRang
  • Mega Book Sales @MU : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2021 #1: Gallery
  • Karanjid Ahongshangbam: JEE Mains Topper
  • Mova Cave @ Hunpung, Ukhrul #1: Gallery
  • Bongbal Kholen, Kpi District #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 vaccination [Jan 16] #2 : Gallery
  • Downloadable Manipuri Calendar :: 2021
  • 'Zehara' - Manipuri Movie :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS