Tonal Languages

Recently, I went to a traditional Chinese dance show called Shen Yun (more on that later!). Between the acts, a member of the company would introduce the next act in Chinese, which was then translated for the American audiences. Listening to that much Chinese reminded me of my interest in tonal languages.

Tonal languages use pitch to create meaning. In English, the ends of sentences go up in pitch to denote a question, but in tonal languages, the pitch at which something is spoken can affect the understanding of individual words.

Here’s a video to watch if you’d like to hear some examples of Cantonese tones. It won’t teach you about tones– it’s just a collection of fun slang from a native speaker.

Cherokee is also a tonal language. Here’s a ten-minute documentary including some history and interviews with Cherokee speakers.


Further Reading:

Tonal languages & music skill



  1. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always interesting to read articles from other writers and practice a little something
    from other web sites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s