Posted: Apr 30, 2012 12:55 am
by don't get me started
I have not come across descriptions of Japanese as a tonal language before. If it is a tonal language, then it is a tonal language in a different way to more canonical tonal languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai and Vietnamese.

Widecora is correct to point out that Hashi cane be either bridge 橋 or chopsticks 箸, with the alternate stress on the syllables to differentiate. However, the way that is is done in Tokyo (標準語 so-called standard Japanese) and the way it is done in Kansai (関西弁 Kansai dialect ) is opposite.( Don't ask me which is which...I always get it messed up!!)

Anthony Burgess in his book 'A Mouthful of Air' recounts how when he was teaching English in Malaysia his Chinese students were much more sensitized to tone and pitch then students who were not L1 speakers of tonal languages. He noticed that when he taught the collocative pair "knife and fork" the students faithfully copied the contrastive stress and tone variations that he had used, even when they went on to use the words singly in other sentences.

Some of my students who also study Chinese spend large amounts of time simply learning to notice and differentiate the tones of Chinese. A typical exercise will be a page of text in Chinese but written with Roman characters (Pinyin) without the diacriticals to indicate tone. They then listen to the text read or played out loud and add the diacriticals.
Rather them than me!