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  • It turns out that in some languages out there, people sing when they speak!


  • So how does that work?


  • When you think of the sounds that you put together to make a word, vowels and consonants

    當你在想有甚麼聲音會用來建構成字, 就會想到母音和子音。

  • come to mind. And that's good. Usually. But to build words in tonal languages like

    那就是了……通常。 但是在「聲調語言」,例如

  • Hausa or Mandarin, you need another set of musical pieces called tones to make meaning.

    豪薩語和漢語普通話,組合成字還需要一些音樂元素, 就是「聲調」。

  • Yes, these languages pay attention to higher and lower notes like a singer or a musician.

    對,這些語言會分辨高音和低音, 就像歌手與音樂家一樣。

  • They don't do this by requiring their speakers to have perfect pitch and hit the same notes

    這些語言不要求說話者有完美音準, 不要求每次都與其他的人一樣命中同一音高。

  • as everyone else every time. Not everyone who speaks your language will be a mezzo-soprano

    那些跟你說同一種語言的人, 不是大家都是次女高音的嘛。

  • after all. So, if it's not about the specific notes, how do tonal languages use so many

    那麼,既然它不是與特定音高有關, 聲調語言怎樣能用那麼多聲調呢?

  • tones? They pay attention to changes in pitch. A syllable sung higher (háá) can mean something

    聲調語言在意的是音高的變化(差距)。 一個音節用高調唱出 (háá) ,

  • different than that same syllable sung lower (hàà). Linguistically, we would count those

    與用低調唱出 (hàà) 可以表達不同的意思。

  • as two different tones.


  • Whether you're high, or low, or just right in the middle, you're contrasting steady

    你是在高、在低,或是在中間, 就是在對比着穩定的音高。

  • notes. These different pitches are called register tones. In the Bantu languages of

    這些不同的調,稱作「階位聲調 (register tones)」。

  • Africa and Athabaskan languages like Navajo, the two basic register tones are a high tone

    在非洲的班圖語支 (Bantu languages),還有德內語支 (Athabaskan languages) ,如納瓦荷語 (Navajo),

  • and a low tone.


  • Changes in pitch can get more dynamic, rising, falling, bouncing or staying level like they

    而音高變化其實可以更有動感, 升、降、反彈,或者平穩,

  • do in Mandarin or Vietnamese. These tones are more about the shape of the tone, not

    可見於漢語普通話和越南語。 這些聲調着重的是聲調的輪廓起伏,

  • simply whether the note is higher or lower, so they're called contour tones. In Mandarin,

    並非單純的高低差別, 所以稱為「曲線聲調 (contour tones)」。

  • a syllable can be pronounced in four different contour tones. In Thai, there are


  • five contour tones.


  • Think you've mastered register versus contour tones? Well then, combine them! Mandarin may

    你以為你已經精通階位聲調和曲線聲調的差別? 好,把它們結合起來吧!

  • have four contour tones, but look to the south to see how Cantonese distinguishes a low rising

    漢語普通話有四個曲線聲調, 但看看南方,看粵語如何分辨

  • tone from a medium rising tone. Oh, and it also has a high level tone, which is different

    低升調和中升調。 啊,它還有高平調,與之不同的是

  • from a medium level tone and a low level tone. Add in the low falling tone, and you've

    中平調和低平調。 再加上低降調,你總共有

  • got six ways to sing a Cantonese syllable!


  • Notice that both register and contour tones aresungon vowels. Consonants have

    要注意,無論是階位聲調和曲線聲調, 都是在母音「唱出」,

  • your tongue blocking, smacking or pushing the airflow around, unlike the smooth, vibrating


  • air characteristic of vowels, which makes them the perfect environment for singsongy tones.

    與之相反,母音的特徵是順滑、空氣振盪, 是發出抑揚頓挫的聲調的絕佳環境。

  • Tones are an extra feature that tonal languages use to build words - rising, level and falling


  • are as distinct as /p/, /t/ and /k/ - so speaking a word in a the wrong tone in one of these

    升調、平調、降調就如 /p/、/t/、/k/ 一樣截然不同, 所以在這些語言,用了錯誤聲調講出一個字,

  • languages can sound as bad as putting a /k/ where it doesn't belong. This makes tonality

    就如放了一個 /k/ 在它不應該出現的地方。

  • a notoriously difficult feature to pick up for people coming from a non-tonal language

    這令聲調成為 --對於從非聲調語言(如英語)過來的人來說, 一個惡名昭彰的難處

  • like English. (Much sympathy my friend!)


  • So keep your ears alert and practice, practice, practice.


  • Thanks again for learning with me and subscribe for language!


It turns out that in some languages out there, people sing when they speak!



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