Accents

In addition to the sounds described above, most languages use supersegmental features which vary the volume (loudness), musical pitch and timing of sounds. We'll describe them in that order.

Stress

English is a good example of a language with stress: some syllables are pronounced louder, at higher pitch and held longer than they otherwise would be. English words usually have one stressed syllable : the native stress falls on the first syllable of a word, but imported words often have stress on the next-to-last (penultimate) syllable. "Small" words like articles and common prepositions and conjunctions often have no stress, as if they were part of the surrounding words.

In Musa, stressed vowels are written high, hanging from the top of the line. To type them, you press the vowel key, followed by the Space key (while for low vowels you press Space before the vowel sign).

Here's how high vowels are used :

Tones

Many languages also use tones to vary the musical pitch of vowels. Musa spells tones using small accent marks over or under the vowels. There are three of them :

Let me show you an example of how these accents are used to write tones. In Chinese, there are four contour tones, and a "fifth" tone consisting of no tone. Here are examples:

中文 Pinyin Tone Number Tone Description Sound Musa Tone Name Musa
1st tone Level tone High Level tone 
2nd tone Rising tone High Rising tone 
3rd tone Dipping tone Low Level tone 
4th tone Falling tone High Falling tone 
ma "5th" tone Neutral tone No tone 

As you can see, the accents are written above low vowels to indicate a low tone, and below high vowels to indicate a high tone. it's the position of the vowel, not the accent, that makes a tone high or low. Also note that the level tone marks are used for peaking and dipping tones (which are usually written with a circumflex or caret and a caron or breve ).

Here's how this system extends to some other well-known tonal languages:

Tone Musa Language Tone Name
Mid tone
(high)
Cantonese Upper Departing (3rd)
Vietnamese ngang (level)
Thai Mid
High Rising tone Chinese Rising (2nd)
Cantonese Upper Rising (2nd)
Vietnamese ngã (tumbling)
High Level tone Chinese High (1st)
Hong Kong Cantonese Upper Level (1st)
Thai High
High Falling tone Chinese Falling (4th)
Guangzhou Cantonese Upper Falling (1st)
Vietnamese nặng (heavy)
Low Falling tone Chinese 3rd before a different tone
Cantonese Lower Level (4th)
Vietnamese hỏi (asking)
Thai Falling
Low Level tone Chinese Dipping (3rd)
Cantonese Lower Departing (6th)
Vietnamese huyền (hanging)
Thai Low
Low Rising tone Chinese 3rd before another 3rd tone
Cantonese Lower Rising (5th)
Thai Rising
Vietnamese sắc (sharp)
No tone
(low)
Chinese Neutral ("5th")

Here's how the accents are used :

Vowel Quality

On the previous page, you met numerous suffixes that modify the sound value of consonants. But we don't use suffixes with vowels; we use accent marks. This choice seems confusing: how can reader know whether an accent indicates a pitch tone or an unusual vowel quality? But in fact, there is no firm line between vowel quality and tone: many tones involve more than just musical pitch. And the tone spelled with the same accent may sound different in different languages, anyway.

So for languages without (musical) tone, we have a standard set of interpretations for the three accent marks, both high and low:


< Suffixes Intonation >


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