tone
Definition - A unit of pitch change for a given language. English has about seven tones.
Note:
(1) In some languages tone allows speakers to distinguish between different words that are otherwise pronounced exactly the same way.
(2) Tone refers to the pitch-pattern within a word, whereas intonation refers to the pitch-pattern of a whole clause or sentence.

Example -
"In the Danish dialect spoken in Sundeved … two … tones are distinguished, one high and the other low.… These tones often serve to keep words … apart that would be perfect homonyms but for the accent."
(Jespersen Progress Lang. 86)

Etymology -
The word derives via Latin from the Greek tonos, vocal pitch or raising of voice (originally "a stretching, taut string").

Oxford English Dictionary -
The first citation for the word in this sense is from 1679:
"At Garways, Chinese Language Tones."
(R. Hooke Diary 14 May (1935), 412)



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