nontonal

adjective

non·​ton·​al ˌnän-ˈtō-nᵊl How to pronounce nontonal (audio)
: not tonal: such as
a
music : not having or based in a particular key : atonal
nontonal music
b
linguistics : not using pitch to express differences of meaning between words
nontonal languages

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web This articulation of speech within a whistle only works for nontonal languages, where the pitch of speech sounds isn’t crucial to the meaning of the word. Bob Holmes, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Aug. 2021 Overall, only one in 30 complex tonal languages flourished in dry areas; one in three nontonal languages cropped up in those same regions. Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American, 1 Apr. 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nontonal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1922, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nontonal was in 1922

Dictionary Entries Near nontonal

Cite this Entry

“Nontonal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nontonal. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

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