sábado, 30 de junio de 2012

What is Intonation?

 What is Intonation?
It is generally believed that spoken sounds occur strung together, one after the other. More
precisely, speech is a continuum; a continuous flux of initiatory, phonatory, and articulatory states and
movements, constantly changing, often overlapping and interpenetrating and influencing each other.
According to Catford (1992), when people look at isolated sounds, they are artificially cutting up that
flowing chain of events into a series of segments or segmental sounds. In reality, these segments are
the speech-sounds that are isolated out of the continuum. Although the segmentation of speech is an
artificial procedure, linguists are obliged to do it to arrest the flow, as it were, in order to pin down
individual sounds for detailed study.
However, one must also give attention to those phonetic phenomena that are characteristic not
so much of individual segments as of their relations to each other, or of stretches of the speechcontinuum
that are greater than one segment in length. Since such phenomena take account of more
than just segments, they are sometimes called suprasegmental or prosodic features. According to
Kreidler (1989), it is well known that English utterances are seldom spoken in monotones. For one,
native English speakers produce melodies of varying kinds, with the voice rising and falling. Such
melodies are technically called intonation.
Opinions do differ when defining intonation. Ladd (1980), an eminent Canadian scholar of
phonology, defines it as “The use of suprasegmental phonetic features (pitch) to convey postlexical or
sentence-level pragmatic meanings in a linguistically structured way” . On the other hand, in
Intonation 4
Ranalli (2002), Cruttenden, equates it specifically with pitch movements, while Coulthard identifies it
with prosody which would include not only pitch movements but also loudness, length, speed, and
even voice quality. Pitch, however, seems to be the common thread running through most definitions or
descriptions of intonation. Cruttenden describes pitch as the “perceptual correlate of fundamental
frequency” (p. 1), which, in essence, is the continuous variation in the sounds we perceive as a result of
the vibration of the vocal cords. As such, intonation can be described as the movements or variations in
pitch to which we attach familiar labels describing levels (e.g. high / low) and tones (e.g. falling /
rising), etc. (Ranalli, 2002).
To be sure, the falling and rising of tones can be sudden or gradual and, thus, may be grouped
together in various combinations (rise-fall-rise, fall-rise-fall, etc.). It is common knowledge that
speakers use pitch to send various messages. Wahba (1998) provides the following example which
illustrates the significance of pitch in everyday communication. If Ali says: "There isn’t any salt on the
table," Layla might repeat the same words but with gradually rising pitch. This would have the effect of
sending a message such as: "Are you sure? I am amazed. I am sure I put it there." Alternatively, Layla
might want to send the message: "There is salt somewhere, but not on the table," in which case she
could do this by using a falling then rising pitch on the word "table”.
Many phonologists believe that another important component of intonation is the phenomenon
called prominence. This is the tendency for speakers to makes some syllables more noticeable than
others. Such action is usually accomplished by pronouncing syllables louder and longer, assigning
them a different pitch, or articulating their phonemes - especially the vowels - more distinctly.
Prominence is also referred to as emphasis, focus, main stress, nucleus, or tonic accent. Equally
important is to stress that pitch level, pitch movement, and prominence are all relative values. For
example, “one speaker’s ‘mid’ pitch would be another speaker’s ‘low’ pitch”. Values do vary from
speaker to speaker and in accordance to the context of the situation (Ranalli, 2002).
Researching this topic, Kumaki (2003) cites Brazil who believes that the tone unit is a stretch of
speech which carries the intonational features of certain binary choices; a choice of one meaning rather
Intonation 5
than another. The beginnings and ends of tone units are marked by the symbol //. This should
demonstrate that if either one or two syllables in a tone unit is made more emphatic or noticeable than
the others, the syllables are then believed to have prominence. Such a feature should distinguish them
from all other syllables and, thus, draw the listener’s attention to the particular word or message being
conveyed. Producing prominence also involves complex changes in loudness, pitch, and length in such
a way that syllables with such features are described as prominent syllables, where a meaningful
either/or choice has been made by the speaker.
Brazil goes on to explain that prominent syllables are indicated by the use of capitalized letters.
If the speaker makes one syllable of a word prominent, he or she is effectively telling their listener that
this word occupies a selection slot. In turn, this selection is affected by the particular circumstances of
the moment and is called “context of interaction” (Kumaki, 2003). According to this distinct view,
intonation is a means for organizing our language into patterns that fit the present communicative need.
“The communicative value of intonation is related to the purpose that a particular piece of language is
serving in some ongoing, interactive event”.

Examples of dropped syllable


Business           /ˈbɪz.nɪs/ 
Wednesday    /ˈwenz.deɪ/ 
Barbara         /"ba:.bra/  
Camera         /ˈkæm.rə/ 
Restaurant  /ˈres.trɒnt/ 
mystery      /ˈmɪs.t r.i/ 
Vegetables       /ˈvedʒ.tə.bl ̩/ 
Federal        /ˈfed. rə l/ 
Interest      /ˈɪn.trəst/ 

Margaret   /"ma:.gr@t/     

jueves, 28 de junio de 2012


In linguistics, intonation is variation of pitch while speaking which is not used to distinguish words. It contrasts with tone, in which pitch variation does distinguish words. Intonation, rhythm, and stress are the three main elements of linguistic prosody. Intonation patterns in some languages, such as Swedish and Swiss German, can lead to conspicuous fluctuations in pitch, giving speech a sing-song quality.[1] Fluctuations in pitch either involve a rising pitch or a falling pitch. Intonation is found in every language and even in tonal languages, but the realization and function are seemingly different. It is used in non-tonal languages to add attitudes to words (attitudinal function) and to differentiate between wh-questions, yes-no questions, declarative statements, commands, requests, etc. Intonation can also be used for discourse analysis where new information is realized by means of intonation. It can also be used for emphatic/contrastive purposes.
All languages use pitch pragmatically as intonation — for instance for emphasis, to convey surprise or irony, or to pose a question. Tonal languages such as Chinese and Hausa use pitch for distinguishing words in addition to providing intonation.
Generally speaking, the following intonations are distinguished:

Rising      Intonation means the pitch of the voice rises over time [↗];
Falling     Intonation means that the pitch falls with time [↘];
Dipping   Intonation falls and then rises [↘↗];

Rising intonation is most commonly found when a question is being asked. The intonation at the end allows someone to differentiate between a question and a statement. 

Unfortunately, however, the rising intonation has become inherited by the Americans, and is incorporated in most sentences spoken. It is most commonly found on American television, and is why it has started to be misused.

Falling intonation literally means the feature of some accents of English where statements have a falling intonation patterns or low fundamental frequency or a low tone in the final syllable of the utterance. 

I'm not going. 

-the last syllable of the word in the exmple is low tone.ryt?.it should not pronounced as or the intonation should not be rising..gets?
1. Who is he? Falling intonation / Wh-question 

2. Is she here? Rising intonation / Yes/No or polarity type Question 

3. You´re going aren´t you? Rising intonation / Tag-question 

4. You aren´t going are you? Rising intonation / Tag-question 

5. Why did you do it? Falling intonation / Wh-question 

6. That´s so nice of you! Falling intonation / Exclamations 

7. Tim said that? Rising intonation / Repetition-question or confirming

Pitch is raising and lowering the voice while speaking. The use of pitch is called intonation. The most well known use for English intonation is to communicate basic grammar, such as the use of a falling pitch on the sentence, "You're coming." compared to a rising pitch at the end of the question form, "You're coming?"

 Statement intonationEnglish Statement Intonation    listen now                                                 Question intonationEnglish Statement Intonation      listen now 

Beyond that simple example, intonation is a complex world of personal choice and context-driven options. Understanding English intonation patterns will increase your spoken English pronunciation competence, and your English listening comprehension as well.

The terms "intonation" and "pitch" are often used interchangeably when talking about the "highness" or "lowness" of our voice when we speak. The difference between the terms is not very significant; in short, intonation is the use of pitch. Intonation is a broader term than pitch. Being able to perceive pitch (the highness of lowness of our voice) leads to the use of correct intonation.

It's the name given to the different levels  of pitch

It refer to the level of voice                     

Level 1 = Low

Level 2 = Standard

Level 3 = High

The combination of the different levels gives a result  [ rising  /   falling  / non final]

1. Rising Intonation                                                     


it has levels    

  •  2 = standard (in initial position)
  •  3 = high

it usually found in yes/no question  [question with auxiliaries in initial position]

The level 3 receives stress   [verbs / adjetives / nouns / adverbs / demostratives / negative form] = key words   - contents                                                                              

2. Falling Intonation                                            

It has levels    

  •  2 = standard
  •  3 = high    
  •  1 = low

it's usually found in

a) short wh/questions  [questions with wh in initial position]   

* Intonation video
accent reduction/English pronunciation training intonation: 

Dropped syllable

The linguistic term for the loss of a syllable in spoken word is syncope, but I simply refer to it as dropped syllables.

Other examples of dropped syllables are the words every, favorite, and different.

That was:

ev-er-y versus ev-ry
fav-o-rite versus fav-rite
dif-fer-ent versus diff-rent

Dropping syllables occurs mostly on high-frequency words, and dictionaries are pretty good about showing both options when two choices of pronunciation are available.

The syllable that can be dropped, not surprisingly, follows a pattern. The syllables before or after a stressed syllable in a word are often unstressed. (This is opposed to a secondary stress that can occur two syllables apart from a stressed syllable.) Only the vowel sounds of unstressed syllables can get dropped, and usually the original word needed to have at least three syllables to begin with. I mentioned four words above, which I'll repeat now.

interesting         /"In.tr@s.tIN/
every                /ˈev·ri/
favorite             /ˈfeɪv·rɪt/
different            /"dIf.r@nt/

Here are some more examples. (I'm only going to pronounce these the less formal way, with the dropped syllable):

laboratory         /l@"bQr.@tri/
family                /"f{m.li/
vegetable          /ˈvedʒ.tə.bl ̩/ 
camera              /ˈkæm.rə/ 
mystery             /ˈmɪs.t r.i/ 
beverage           /"bev.r.IdZ/
restaurant         /ˈres.trɒnt/ 

The most common 2-syllable word can be reduced to a single syllable: s'pose (for suppose), as in "I s'pose I can help you tomorrow."

Also, like most informal options of pronouncing English, they may go away is the word is emphasized in a sentence. For instance, the word every. In normal speech, it drops to 2 syllables, every. However, if I were emphasizing that word, it may go back to the more proper 3 syllables, every. For example, in the sentence:

You don't need to practice every day, but you should try to most days.
I stressed the word every, and it was said with three syllables, as ev-e-ry.

Now, I do need to say, North Americans and British do this differently. So if you are more exposed to British English, you will not notice this to the same extent.