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In collaboration with pitch, tone controls the overall bass, mid, and treble frequencies heard within a certain note. Tone can make the same note or pitch sound darker or brighter, heavier or lighter, "bassier and treblier" in essence.


Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called intonation, but not all languages use tones to distinguish words or their inflections, analogously to consonants and vowels. Such tonal phonemes are sometimes called tonemes.

A slight majority of the languages in the world are tonal. However, most Indo-European languages, which include the majority of the most widely spoken languages in the world today, are not tonal.

In the most familiar tonal language, Chinese, tones are distinguished by their shape (contour), most syllables carry their own tone, and many words are differentiated solely by tone. Furthermore, tone tends to play almost no grammatical role (the Jin language of Shanxi being a notable exception). In many tonal African languages, such as most Bantu languages, however, tones are distinguished by their relative level, words are longer, there are fewer minimal tone pairs, and a single tone may be carried by the entire word, rather than a different tone on each syllable. Often grammatical information, such as past versus present, "I" versus "you", or positive versus negative, is conveyed solely by tone.

Many languages use tone in a more limited way. Somali, for example, may only have one high tone per word. In Japanese, less than half of the words have drop in pitch; words contrast according to which syllable this drop follows. Such minimal systems are sometimes called pitch accent, since they are reminiscent of stress accent languages which typically allow one principal stressed syllable per word. However, the term "pitch accent" does not have a coherent definition.


Tone is a literary technique that is a part of composition, which encompasses the attitudes toward the subject and toward the audience implied in a literary work. Tone may be formal, informal, intimate, solemn, somber, playful, serious, ironic, condescending, or many other possible attitudes.[1]

Tonal scale

There is also such a thing known as a tonal scale which arranges tones from depressed to overjoyed. The scale can include a variety of types of ironic tones. When writing a paper, tone is very important to identify in order to decide the author's mood and attitude towards the subject. In general, tonal scales verbalize the words that one, as a person, cannot think of.


The tone of a piece of work can be found in many ways. Without tone, a piece of literature would evoke no emotion, and may seem very dull. It would likely be an official document.

In many cases, the tone of a piece of work may change or evolve. Elements of tone include diction, or word choice; syntax, the grammatical arrangement of words in a text for effect; imagery, or vivid appeals to the senses; details, facts that are included or omitted; Extended Metaphor, language that compares seemingly unrelated things throughout the composition.[2]

Tone is an element used frequently in poetry to convey feeling and emotion, and set the mood for the work. It is important to note that tone and mood are not the same thing.

General Definitions


1. Music a. A sound of distinct pitch, quality, and duration; a note.

b. The interval of a major second in the diatonic scale; a whole step.
c. A recitational melody in a Gregorian chant.

2.a. The quality or character of sound.

b. The characteristic quality or timbre of a particular instrument or voice.

3.a. The pitch of a word used to determine its meaning or to distinguish differences in meaning.

b. The particular or relative pitch of a word, phrase, or sentence.

4. Manner of expression in speech or writing: took an angry tone with the reporters. 5. A general quality, effect, or atmosphere: a room with an elegant tone. 6.a. A color or shade of color: light tones of blue.

b. Quality of color: The green wallpaper had a particularly somber tone.

7. The general effect in painting of light, color, and shade. 8. Physiology a. The normal state of elastic tension or partial contraction in resting muscles.

b. Normal firmness of a tissue or an organ.


v. toned, ton·ing, tones


1. To give a particular tone or inflection to. 2. To soften or change the color of (a painting or photographic negative, for example). 3. To sound monotonously; intone. 4. To make firmer or stronger. Often used with up: exercises that tone up the body.


1. To assume a particular color quality. 2. To harmonize in color.

Phrasal Verb

tone down To make less vivid, harsh, or violent; moderate. [Middle English ton, from Old French, from Latin tonus, from Greek tonos, string, a stretching; see ten- in Indo-European roots.].