Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
accented on the last. The presence of the characteristic verbal elements e- and -men in the first case and of the nominal -s in the second tends to obscure the inherent value of the accentual alternation. This value comes out very neatly in such English doublets as to refund and a refund, to extract and an extract, to come down and a come down, to lack luster and lack-luster eyes, in which the difference between the verb and the noun is entirely a matter of changing stress. In the Athabaskan languages there are not infrequently significant alternations of accent, as in Navaho ta-di-gis you wash yourself (accented on the second syllable), ta-di-gis he washes himself (accented on the first)27
Pitch accent may be as functional as stress and is perhaps more often so. The mere fact, however, that pitch variations are phonetically essential to the language, as in Chinese (e.g., feng wind with a level tone, feng to serve with a falling tone) or as in classical Greek (e.g., lab-on having taken with a simple or high tone on the suffixed participial -on, gunaik-on of women with a compound or falling tone on the case suffix -on) does not necessarily constitute a functional, or perhaps we had better say grammatical, use of pitch. In such cases the pitch is merely inherent in the radical element or affix, as any vowel or consonant might be. It is different with such Chinese alternations as chung (level) middle and chung (falling) to hit the middle; mai (rising) to buy and mai (falling) to sell; pei (falling) back and pei (level) to carry on the back. Examples of this type are not exactly common in Chinese and the language cannot be said to possess at present a definite feeling for tonal differences
Note 27. It is not unlikely, however, that these Athabaskan alternations are primarily tonal in character. [back]