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Toda language

Toda is a Dravidian language well known for its many fricatives and trills. It is spoken by the Toda people, a population of about one thousand who live in the Nilgiri Hills of southern India.


Phonemic inventory


For a Dravidian language, Toda's sixteen vowels is an unusually large number. There are eight vowel qualities, each of which may occur long or short. There is little difference in quality between the long and short vowels, except for , which occurs as when short and as when long.

Front Central Back


Toda has an unusually large number of fricatives and trills. Its seven places of articulation are the most for any Dravidian language. The voiceless laterals are true fricatives, not voiceless approximants; the retroflex lateral is highly unusual among the world's languages.

Toda voiceless fricatives are allophonically voiced intervocalically. (There are also invariably voiced fricatives, , though the latter is marginal.) The nasals and are allophonically devoiced or partially devoiced in final position or next to voiceless consonants.

  Labial Denti-
Apical alveolar Apical alveolar
(concave, aka "retroflex")
Laminal postalveolar
Subapical Palatal
Dorsal Palatal Velar
Plain Sibilant Lateral Plain Palatalized Plain Palatalized Plain Palatalized Lateral
Plosives and
Fricatives Voiceless

All of these consonants may occur in word-medial and -final position. However, only a restricted set occur initially. These are in boldface above.

Unlike the other dental consonants, is interdental. Similarly, is labiodental while the other labials are bilabial.

Apical consonants are either alveolar or postalveolar. The actual feature that distinguishes and is obscure. They have the same primary place of articulation. Spaji et al. have found that the rhotic that may occur word initially (erroneously called "dental" in previous literature, perhaps because Dravidian coronals tend to be dental by default) has a secondary articulation, which they have tentatively identified as advanced tongue root until further measurements can be made. This analysis is assumed in the transcription .

Another difference between them is that is the least strongly trilled, most often occurring with a single contact. However, unlike a flap, multiple contacts are normal, if less common, and is easily distinguishable from the other trills when they are all produced with the same number of contacts.

Retroflex consonants are sub-apical. Retroflex is more strongly trilled than the other rhotics. However, it is not purely retroflex. Although the tongue starts out in a sub-apical retroflex position, trilling involves the tip of the tongue, and this causes it to move forward toward the alveolar ridge. This means that the retroflex trill gives a preceding vowel retroflex coloration the way other retroflex consonants do, but that the vibration itself is not much different from the other trills.

See also



  • Emeneau, Murray B. 1984. Toda Grammar and Texts. American Philosophical Society, Memoirs Series, 155. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • Sini a Spaji , Peter Ladefoged, P. Bhaskararao, 1994. "The rhotics of Toda". In UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 87: Fieldwork Studies of Targeted Languages II.

br:Todeg es:Idioma toda fr:Toda (langue) it:Lingua toda la:Lingua Toda pms:Lenga Toda ru: ( ) fi:Todan kieli ta: th:

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