In this study, we investigated whether tones perform a distinctive function in the Yeongwol Dialect and whether its rising tone is a single or compound one. To achieve this goal, we adopted two phonetic and phonological experiments. Through this, we established the tonal system in the dialect.
The experimental results show that pitch register in the dialect is divided into two levels, which are composed of a high and a low pitch level. It also consists of three tonemes, that are low tone /M/, high tone /H/, and raising tone /M˘ /.
Recent studies show that a pitch pattern is the basic unit for describing tones in Korean. Based on this approach, we conclude that pitch patterns in Yeongwol dialect are composed of a pyengcheuk pitch pattern, a departing pitch pattern, and a rising pitch pattern. They all have a phonological function that distinguishes the meaning of words. Particularly, the departing pitch pattern is realized only in a monosyllabic word, whereas it changes into a pyengcheuk pitch pattern within a polysyllabic word.
On the other hand, Choi Myung-ok’s(1998) widely accepted idea, suggesting that a rising tone in the Yeongwol dialect is a compound of a low tone and a high tone, cannot be accepted, because our experimental results clearly show that the tone is a rising one in the low pitch range. It means that the tone needs to be regarded as single.