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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: December ::
Literary Incantations Only in Non-Tonal Languages?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0587  Monday, 30 November 2009

From:       Conrad Cook <
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 >
Date:       Thursday, 12 Nov 2009 00:32:08 -0500
Subject:    Re: Literary Incantations Only in Non-Tonal Languages?

 >Subject: SHK 20.0560

  --  Ina Centaur <
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 >wrote:

 >. . . when
 >Shakespeare is translated into another language, especially a tonal
 >language like Mandarin Chinese, much of the magic "sound" of the Bard's
 >words is lost. When casting a spell, a Chinese shaman typically doesn't
 >utter an incantation, but uses body motion or the cauldron, and
 >sometimes calligraphy. So, rather than worrying about what's lost in
 >translation, I'm wondering if spoken incantations (in literature, at
 >least) arise only in non-tonal languages.


Well, I'm living in Cambodia, and rap is popular here. Not so much as in 
the States.

That doesn't address your question, since Khmer is a non-tonal language. 
(It looks to me like it's in the process of going tonal, but that's my 
opinion as a non-linguist.)

However, if you Google "Thai rap", you'll find that rap is also big in 
Thailand. And Thai *is* a tonal language.

In my opinion, the analogy you're really looking for is a "voice roll," 
which is a way of speaking in rhythm used by ministers and politicians. 
I don't know if they do anything like that in non-tonal languages, but 
it should be researchable.

Conrad

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