The intonation of South Asian languages: towards a comparative analysis


  • Sameer ud Dowla Khan


South Asia has long been considered a region of widespread convergence in phonology, morphology, and syntax. While these claims have not explicitly been extended to intonation in previous work, researchers such as Fe?ry (2010) have suggested that multiple South Asian languages (SALs) from different families can be covered with the same intonational description, and that prominence and weight play no role in its implementation. The current study examines what is arguably the most characteristic unit of SAL prosody, the repeated rising contour (RRC), produced in recordings of The North Wind and the Sun in six SALs to confirm the existence of some crosslinguistic similarities while also identifying areas of substantial variation. I highlight the roles played by lexical accent, vowel peripherality, and vowel length in the alignment of tones, and describe variation within and across languages. I also suggest directions in which research must be carried out to expand our typological understanding of the region and propose a model flexible enough to cover its diverse languages.