Singing in tone: Text-setting constraints in tone languages

ICPhS 2015 satellite workshop, 12 August 2015

A long‐standing question about singing in tone languages is as follows: if pitch is being used to distinguish meaning, how can speakers of tone languages understand lyrics when they are set to music? In other words, how is (linguistic) tone reconciled with (musical) melody?

A small but growing body of research is beginning to make clear that this question is an aspect of the more general 'text‐setting' problem of satisfying (potentially conflicting) linguistic and musical constraints. Just as English places formal restrictions on poetic language based on properties such as vowel length and stress, comparable constraints exist in tone languages that govern the ways in which tonal sequences can be married to musical melodies.

The goal of this half‐day workshop is to bring together scholars working at the intersection to music and language in order to develop our understanding of these tonal text‐setting constraints. We are pleased to confirm the following invited participants:


There is no cost to attend the workshop, but please register your interest with James Kirby.


James Kirby (University of Edinburgh)
D. Robert Ladd (University of Edinburgh)