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Relationship between Tones and Grammar

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I've been curious about the relationship between tones and grammar for

a while and I couldn't turn up anything by google. I've noticed that the fourth

tone is often used for 'important' words like:

不 是 到 去 上 下 就 对 会 要 这 那

In particular modal verbs and verbs commonly used as complements and

prepositions. Of course it is possible that there is no pattern here, but I

was interested if anyone knew of any scientific studies of the statistical

patterns in Mandarin tones, or the relationship between tones and grammar.

What got me interested in the fourth tone was my Chinese teachers suggestion

that we think of the fourth tone as a kind of stress.


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As far as I know, there is specific relationship between tones and meanings, but not grammar.

Of course, possibly someone have done scientific researches on patterns in Mandarin tones, or the relationship between tones and grammar. But no for sure. However, it's probably not proper to say that the fourth tone is a kind of stress. If it is, the rest tones in Mandarine are stresses too, aren't them? I think this kind of opinion will likely mislead Chinese learners who are Indo-European. ( I suppose you were.)

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I think it's easy to see this kind of pattern, but in reality it is all just random. Fourth tone is most common, but it isn't associated with any particular kind of word.

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Thanks againstwind and roddy.

Againstwind, that is very interesting, and I notice that the difference

between fifth tone and thrid tone affects the previous syllable too.

I think my teacher's point was that the fourth tone is pronounced louder

than the other tones. This seems to me to be the case. I would further

say that the tones in order of loudness are 4, 1, 2/3, 5. What do you think?

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While it is not a link between tone and grammar, I thought the explanation I read several months ago on tonal languages in two Wikipedia articles provided limited but interesting information specific to the origin of tones in the Chinese language (linked below). In a nutshell, the theory is that tones arose in Chinese in place of initial and final consonant sounds that became unvoiced. (I suppose this tradeoff must have been viewed as beneficial to the people involved, but I myself would not have made it.) Anyway, I was taken quite aback when I read the following "shocking" quotation from the first article:

"In addition to Tibetan, both Chinese and Vietnamese are believed to have been atonal within the past two millennia..."

Yet it shouldn't have been surprising that languages evolve, just as everything else. So, Chinese once without tones, English, one day, perhaps with tones? Scary. I say let's all stay vigilant at pronouncing consonants.




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