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This page was written for Toaq Gamma. Its contents are not yet up to date with the latest version of Toaq, Toaq Delta.

Toaq is a tonal language. It has tones! That is: saying a word with a rising or falling vocal intonation, for example, makes for a difference in meaning.

Function of tones

Toaq has grammatical tone: when you change the tone of a word, its grammatical function changes (for example dẻ “is beautiful” → dẽ “beautifully”).

(This is in contrast to lexical tone, like in Chinese: there, when you change the tone of a syllable, it becomes a different word (lexeme) entirely. For example 西 xı̄ “west” → 媳 xí “daughter-in-law”.)


  1. The falling tone falling tone is used for verbs, predicatizers, and adjectives. (fa “goes”, kúe gı “the good book”, … po káto “… of the cat”)
  2. The rising tone rising tone is used for nouns, determiners, and pronouns. (káto “the cat”, sá kato “some cat(s)”, “I/me”)
  3. The low glottal tone glottal tone is used for complementizers and clause-initiating words. (ꝡä gı “that it’s good”)
  4. The rising-falling tone hiatus tone is for adverbial adjuncts

Toaq Gamma

Tones worked quite differently back in Toaq Gamma.

Verb tones

Every verb can be "conjugated" into one of six tones, each of which expresses some grammatical function:

  1. (see History section for why there is no tone #1)
  2. The rising tone rising tone marks a noun or bound variable. (súq “you”, sa pỏq… póq “some person… that person”)
  3. The rising-creaky tone rising-creaky tone marks the start of a relative clause. ( “which is good”)
  4. The falling tone falling tone marks a verb phrase, or the tail of a serial. (fả “goes”, bũ dẻ “not-beautifully”)
  5. The rising-falling tone rising-falling tone marks the start of a content clause. ( “that it's good”)
  6. The mid-falling tone mid-falling tone marks a preposition. (bìe ní “after that”)
  7. The falling creaky tone falling creaky tone marks an adverb. (dẽ “beautifully”)

Sometimes people will say “the fifth tone” or “t5” instead of “the rising-falling tone”.

Possible new tone scheme

Main Article: Main verb tone

On 21 August 2022, Hoemaı mentioned trying to settle on a new tone scheme.

  1. flat tone — adjunct (adverbs and prepositions)
  2. rising tone — nouns or bound variable
  3. rising-creaky tone — allotone of falling creaky tone; alternatively if adverbs and prepositions stay separate, it would take one of those functions
  4. falling tone — tail of a serial
  5. rising-falling tone — relative clauses
  6. mid-falling tone — main verb
  7. falling creaky tone — content clauses
  8. neutral tone — particles
  9. falling-rising tone (obsolete 3rd tone) — allotone of mid-falling tone

Neutral tone

Particles, on the other hand, are in the neutral tone neutral tone (aka the 8th tone), which is not really a tone. The only rule is that you don't continue the contour of the previous tone. So, when saying a particle after the falling tone falling tone, you should go up in pitch to break the falling contour. This way, the listener can tell the difference between lẻ moq and lẻmoq.


There used to be a flat tone flat tone, which marked the continuation of a multisyllable word. But now, the tone contour is spread out over the whole word. This was tone #1, but now it is gone. So we start counting from #2, because it would be more confusing to re-number them.

The rising-creaky tone rising-creaky tone used to be dipping falling-rising tone (obsolete 3rd tone), and falling creaky tone was just “creaky”.== Lexical tone == Toaq actually does have a little bit of lexical tone. For example, moq (question marker) and môq (rhetorical question marker) are different lexemes.

More subtly, is not rising-falling tone + lả. Rather, each of rising-falling tone and lả is a complementizer in its own right. So really is also its own complementizer, of which rising-falling tone is an allomorph.

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