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Home > Resources > Language > Cabécar > • Tones


Cabécar has two "tones"--high and low--which describe the actual pitch of the syllable.  Syllables with a high tone are actually spoken with a higher pitch than syllables with a low tone.  In English, we use differences of pitch at the sentence level as differences of "intonation" (rising at the end of a sentence to mark a "yes/no" question); otherwise, differences of pitch are for emphasis.

In Cabécar, different tones can make two different words.  In these cases, the high tone is marked by an accent on the word, while the word with the low tone is unmarked: "yis ká" (my father) vs. "yis ka" (my tooth/teeth).

Unfortunately for non-native speakers/learners, high tones are only marked in standard writing when they distinguish between two words.  They occur in many other words and must be learned and pronounced correctly in order to be understood clearly.

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