In linguistics, tone and pitch are both used to describe the musical quality of a spoken language. While they are related, there are some key differences between tone and pitch.
Pitch refers to the perceived highness or lowness of a sound. In spoken language, pitch is created by the vibration of the vocal cords. When the vocal cords vibrate quickly, the resulting sound has a high pitch, while slower vibrations produce a lower pitch. In linguistics, pitch is typically measured in Hertz (Hz), which is a unit of frequency.
Tone, on the other hand, refers to the use of pitch to distinguish words or convey meaning in a language. In tonal languages, such as Mandarin, Thai, or Yoruba, the pitch of a word can completely change its meaning. For example, in Mandarin Chinese, the word “ma” can mean “mother,” “horse,” “scold,” or “to urge,” depending on the tone used to pronounce it.
While pitch and tone are related, not all languages use tone to convey meaning. In non-tonal languages, such as English, pitch can still be used for emphasis or to convey emotion, but it does not change the meaning of words.
It is also important to note that while tone is primarily used to convey meaning in tonal languages, it can also be used for emphasis or to convey emotion. For example, in Mandarin Chinese, a rising tone can indicate a question or uncertainty, while a falling tone can indicate a statement or certainty.
In terms of pronunciation, pitch and tone are both affected by the use of intonation. Intonation refers to the rise and fall of pitch in a spoken sentence or phrase. In English, rising intonation at the end of a sentence can indicate a question, while falling intonation can indicate a statement.
In summary, pitch and tone are both related to the musical quality of a spoken language, but they have different functions. Pitch refers to the perceived highness or lowness of a sound, while tone refers to the use of pitch to convey meaning in tonal languages. While pitch can be used for emphasis or to convey emotion in any language, tone is primarily used in tonal languages to distinguish words and convey meaning.