The notion of toneme is used in the field of phonetics to name the inflection that a melodic unit assumes after the last stressed syllable. It is possible to distinguish between different classes of tones according to their characteristics.

It is convenient, before going deeper into the concept of tomma, to focus on other terms that contribute to its understanding. We said in the previous lines that an I-tone is an inflection: that is, an attenuation or elevation of the voice that allows a certain grammatical content to be encoded. The toneme is an inflection registered in a melodic unit, which is delimited by the appearance of a discontinuity in the rhythmic or melodic pattern. In this case, it is the melodic unit that develops after the last stressed syllable.

It can be said that the toneme is the intonation that, in relation to a phonic group, acquires the final section of the melodic curve. This melodic curve, given by the specific succession of unstressed and stressed syllables, defines its distinctive feature of the toneme. The tone can have variable amplitude and be descending, ascending or horizontal. According to the Spanish philologist Thomas Navarro Thomas (1884 – 1979), one can differentiate between suspension tone, anticadence tone, semi-anticadence tone, cadence tone and half-cadence tone, each with their endings. A toneme, in short, is a central element of intonation (the melodic movement that is reflected when pronouncing an utterance). It is important to note that intonation has an impact on the meaning of speech and on the transmission of emotions and moods.

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