tone, tonal: Tone is a pitch pattern that is an essential part of the pronunciation of a word and can distinguish one word from another. Languages that use tone in this way are called "tonal"; in a tonal language, a particular sequence of phonemes with a high pitch, for instance, can mean something quite different from the same sequence with a mid or low pitch. Since these pitches contrast with each other, they are phonemic, so tone can be defined as phonemic pitch.
Tone is distinguished from intonation in that intonation patterns are associated with larger structures such as phrases, whereas tones are associated with particular words. All languages have intonation; not all have tone.
Tones are relative: low  tone in a child's or a woman's speech may be phonetically higher than high  tone in a man's, but it is always low relative to the higher tones in a person's own speech.
Although the familiar Indo-European languages (English, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, etc.) are not tonal, many (perhaps a majority) of the world's languages are. This includes most languages in China, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as many of Mexico's indigenous languages, particularly the Otomanguean languages. [Spanish: tono , tonal]
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