Concept

Downdrift

Summary
In phonetics, downdrift (also known as automatic downstep) is the cumulative lowering of pitch in the course of a sentence due to interactions among tones in a tonal language. Downdrift often occurs when the tones in successive syllables are H L H (high, low, high) or H L L H (high, low, low, high). In this case the second high tone tends to be lower than the first. The effect can accumulate so that with each low tone, the pitch of the high tones becomes slightly lower, until the end of the intonational phrase, when the pitch is "reset". However, not every sequence of H L H leads to downdrift. In some languages, in some circumstances, the two high tones in a sequence H L H can be pronounced on the same level, with a "plateau" between them; that is, H L H changes to H H H. This occurs for example in Chichewa if the first H is a proclitic word, e.g. á "of" + Maláwi "Malawi" is pronounced á Máláwi "of Malawi", with a plateau. In other languages, in some circumstances, even longer sequenc
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