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Summary of ToPIQQ

The aim of ToPIQQ is to identify the factors determining the placement and distribution of tonal events in a range of unrelated languages that represent different types of prosodic and segmental systems: several Athabaskan languages, Dinka and Shilluk (both Western Nilotic), and Tashlhiyt and Zwara (Zouara) Berber. What we know about these languages so far has led to a blurring of the boundaries between phonetics and phonology and calls for a new way of expressing the regularities of tonal placement, so as to account for the variation we have observed, both within and across varieties and related languages. All of these languages present a challenge to current theories of tone and intonation and call for a unified model incorporating what have generally been regarded as two separate aspects of tonal placement: phonological association and the phonetic properties of potential tone-bearing syllables, as relevant to temporal alignment.

This multidisciplinary project will analyse tonal placement through a combination of fieldwork approaches and detailed acoustical and articulatory analyses, and interpret the implications for linguistic theories. In particular, we shall model this variation using dynamical systems. In line with current trends in cognitive science, dynamical systems enable us to express the nonlinear relations among qualitative and quantitative variables within a single system and to model the complex temporal dynamics arising from biased competition among factors.