Tone and downstep in Paicî (Oceanic, New Caledonia)
Keywords:Oceanic, New Caledonia, tone, downstep, prosodic structure
In this paper, I propose an updated analysis of the tone system of Paicî, one of the rare tonal Oceanic languages. Building on Jean-Claude Rivierre's (1974) work, I show that the tonal system of Paicî is best described with three underlying primitives: a High tone, a Low tone, and a downstep /↓/ analyzed as a register feature independent of tone. Paicî is particularly interesting for the empirical documentation as well as the typological and theoretical understanding of downstep, because it combines many rare properties: (i) only downstepped ↓L is attested; (ii) downstep is its own phonological object; (iii) downstep is realized utterance-initially; and (iv) downstep is not caused by a floating tone, but has its roots in a former accentual system. The paper also provides an acoustic description of tone and downstep in Paicî, an important step toward filling a serious gap in the documentation of downstepped ↓L tones and their properties.