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Jan. 5th, 2009

How do you sing in an inflected language? If every word has maybe three or four meanings depending solely on the way you voice it, as in Thai or Cantonese, are there particular conventions when you’re singing them to melodies? Or is the audience just permanently confused?
“‘Onion, effrontery, fusebox’? What is this rubbish?”
“That can’t be right. I’m pretty sure I heard a ‘the’ in there.”
“Hmm, maybe. Or it could have been ‘badger’.”
EDIT: Three seconds of research established that someone far more sensible has actually addressed this question. However, unless linguistics is your field of expertise you might find the article—from the author who brought you the bestselling On the Final Glottal Stop in Fuzhou—a little dry*, and you may find it more entertaining to continue to speculate facetiously.

* Example: “While relative pitch levels are, by and large, preserved in the songs, the same is not true of the tonal contours. The crucial factor involves tempo. In faster-paced songs, the tendency is for the tonal contours to be levelled out. This is accomplished by sacrificing the initial pitch rise when time is short. Thus, tone /13/ would be sung as simply mid, [33], and tone /35/ as simply high, [55].”


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC)
A friend of mine was living in Vietnam, and said that her Vietnamese friends were surprised that she could make up songs (in English) as she went along to sing to the children, precisely because they needed much more precision when singing in Vietnamese.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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