Singing in tone: Text-setting constraints in tone languages

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.

This page aims to archive work produced in the course of the AHRC-funded project 'Singing in tone: text-setting constraints in Southeast Asia' (AH/M005240/1), as well as other resources related to singing in tone languages and tonal text-setting.

Project-related outputs

Other resources