The Musical Accent or Intonation in the Kongo Language: With Graphic Schemes and Tables of Notes (Classic Reprint)
When leaving Congo in 1919 an old missionary said concerning the pitch (la hauteur musicale, Tonhohe) or the musical accent in the Kongo language: That is probably the reason why I am not able to pronounce certain words properly. The natives always insist upon correcting my pronunciation and I cannot hear any difference.
I have had the same experience myself, not surmising that it was the pitch they wanted to correct, or that it was of such importance for the pronunciation and the meaning of the word. We have, true enough a defined musical accent in Swedish, and I knew that each word in the Kongo language also had its particular pitch and intonation, but I never thought that it could be so complicated, and that it could undergo so many changes. Time, however, has not permitted me to enter upon this study until now.
After visiting the phonetic laboratory in Hamburg in 1913 and getting an idea of the studies upon the musical accent, especially from an article in the periodical Vox number 5, 1913, and other brief information about pitch in some Bantu languages, I made up my mind to try the venture, although I lack an accurate ear for music. I was encouraged by Professor D. Carl Meinhof, and Dr. Panconcelli-Calzia, the director of the laboratory, promised to transcribe the material I could collect by phonograms.
Knowing the musical accent in Swedish, I could quickly find the primitive words in which short root-syllables are pronounced with a high-level pitch, and final syllables with a low-level pitch in nouns and a semi-low (or medium-low) in verbs.
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