Tone Transcription Practice

For Linguistics 103, "Introduction to General Phonetics"

as taught by Bruce Hayes
Department of Linguistics

Getting Started

You can do the exercise by clicking on the links below.  

Or, click here to obtain this entire exercise in one zipped bundle.  Then you can do something else while it's downloading, instead of waiting for the files one by one.  Once you have the zipped file, put it in a folder, unzip it, and click on Index.htm.  

Please don't try the above if you're uneasy about computers--just go on to the next section.

If you have no Internet connection, or your connection is too slow, you can bring a blank recordable compact disk to my office hours and I will make a copy for you.

Purpose of the Exercise

These words are for practice in transcribing elementary tones.  The tones are "Linguistics 103" tones, with little allotonic variation, exaggerated pitch range, and long vowels.  Your mileage with real tone languages will vary.  But I believe that if you can hear these tones it's a start on hearing real-language tones.

I checked these tones using the WaveSurfer pitch tracker while recording them.

First, I give labeled illustrations of various tones.  Then, there is complete set that you can transcribe yourself and click to see the answer.

Monosyllables on High, Low, Rise, Fall

1. High
2. Low
3. Rise
4. Fall

All Disyllabic Combinations with High, Low, Rise, Fall

5. High High
6. High Low
7. High Rise
8. High Fall
9. Low High
10. Low Low
11. Low Rise
12. Low Fall
13. Rise High
14. Rise Low
15. Rise Rise
16. Rise Fall
17. Fall High
18. Fall Low
19. Fall Rise
20. Fall Fall

All Three-Syllable Words Containing One High, One Mid, and One Low

21. High Mid Low
22. High Low Mid
23. Mid High Low
24. Mid Low High
25. Low High Mid
26. Low Mid High

Practice Exercises

Transcribe with High, Low, Rise, Fall.
A. sound answer
B. sound answer
C. sound answer
D. sound answer
E. sound answer
F. sound answer
G. sound answer
H. sound answer
I. sound answer
J. sound answer
K. sound answer
L. sound answer
M. sound answer
N. sound answer
O. sound answer
P sound answer
Q. sound answer
R. sound answer
S. sound answer
T. sound answer

Transcribe with H, M, L. Each word has one syllable with each tone.
U. sound answer
V. sound answer
W. sound answer
X. sound answer
Y. sound answer
Z. sound answer

If the sound files don't play

Download a free waveform player on the Web.  For Windows, I've had the best luck with the Windows Media Player, available here. I don't know much about Macs, but one possibility is WinAmp, available here.  For both Windows and Mac, there are many other players as well.

If all is going smoothly, the files will simply play when you click on them. But you may find that instead, your software for playing files will pop up on the screen. This will slow you down, but only by a little. Click the Play button on this software (it usually looks like the Play button on a tape recorder). If you can't locate an interface with a Play button on your computer screen, try minimizing the browser window (it might be lurking underneath).

Please contact me at if you're still having trouble with the sound files.

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