MÀDA TONE SYSTEM: A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION
This paper is a preliminary report on an ongoing research on Màda, a Platoid language spoken predominantly in Nasarawa State and few adjoining states; Kaduna and Plateau states, Nigeria. This paper discusses the phonological feature of tone and its relevance in the phonology of Màda. It examines the structure of tone bearing unit with a view to revealing the possible sequence of tone placement, types and patterns as well as the functions of tone in Màda. The motivation for this study stems from the fact that tone is contrastive and plays a significant role in determining the pitch-related suprasegmental pattern in the language. The expectation of this paper, however, is to describe tone and tone groups in Màda, hence no appeal is made to a specific theoretical model as this attempt is only a descriptive study. Data for this study was sourced through monolingual, direct elicitation and participant observation methods. The findings show that Màda attests three level tones with the high tone unmarked and two-tone glides - high-low/^/ and low-high /˅/ respectively. It further shows that tone in Màda is morphophonemic and highly productive such that pitch variation is capable of initiating contrast in the meaning of lexical items (morphotonemics). Syntactically, this study posits that, tonal contrast has a high functional load in the grammar of Màda. For instance, tone changes a simple declarative sentence to interrogative sentence type, makes a distinction between singular and plural, and changes infinitives to verbal nouns. Therefore, this paper, among other things, document and decipher Màda tone system. We recommend that minority languages be studied and documented to forestall language endangerment.
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