Lesson 5: Tonality in Lingala (Part I)
Well, well, well, if one thing has really kicked my behind in terms of Lingala is the tonality. If you can take anything away from this lesson:
Lingala has 4 different tonalities:
– A high versus a low tone (simple tones)
– A increasing versus a decreasing tone (double tones)
Tone is very important in Lingala because it has the potential of changing the meaning of a word or the tense of a sentence.
Now, let me explain (to the best of my ability)!
I. Simple Tones
For the most part, you will hear two tones in Lingala, a high or a low tone. These are simple tones that are usually characterize a syllable and are found on the vowels, when written. The high tone is characterized by a sharp and high accent on the vowel like in [é] when written. The low tone is characterized by a grave and low accent on the vowel like in [è] or no accent at all [e] when written. In general, when a syllable and vowel is in a low tone, writers opt for no accent at all unless the distinction for a grave and low accent is needed.
Here are some examples:
If we were to break it up by syllables, it becomes — bi-so
As such, when written, it becomes — bísó (We)
If we were to break it up by syllables, it becomes — mo-to
As such, when written, it becomes — móto (fire)
If we were to break it up by syllables, it becomes – ba-to
As such, when written, it stays — bato (men)
If we were to break it up by syllables, it becomes — moto
As such, when written, it stays — moto or mòtò (man)