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Theory of phonetics.doc
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Topics for discussion.

  1. What do we contribute to the concept of stress? What is significant in making the sound prominent? What are the main components of word stress? Is there any difference between the terms “prominence” and “stress” in speech? What are the main degrees of stress?

  2. What are the main types of word stress? What role do they carry out?

  3. What causes shift of word stress? How can words be classified according to it?

Lecture IX. Intonation.

Key words:

1. pitch range ['pIC 'reInG] – диапазон /

высота тона

2. the pitch contour ['kOntVq] – контур

высоты тона

3. pitch span[spxn] – диапазон высоты


4.to squeak [skwJk] – пищать, скрипеть

5.to growl [graVl] – рычать, греметь

6. implication ["ImplI'keISn] - подтекст

7. to delimitate [dI'lImIteIt] – определять


8. to subordinate [sq'bLdIneIt] – подчи-


9. subsidiary[sqb'sIdIqrI] – вспомога-

тельный, дополнительный

10. rheme[rJm] - рема

11. framework['freImwWk] – рамки,


12. abrupt[q'brApt] – внезапный, рез-

кий, обрывистый

13. spiky['spaIkI] – сварливый, несго-


14. recurrence[rI'kArqns] – возвраще-

ние, повторение

15. brevity['brevItI] - краткость

16. enclitic[In'klItIk] - энклитический

17. proclitic [prqV'klItIk]– проклитичес-


18.to refine[rI'faIn] – усовершенст-

вовать, делать более утонченным

19. isochronous[aI'sOkrqnqs] – изохрон-


20. periodicity["pIqrIq'dIsItI] – перио-

дичность, частота

21.to slope[slqVp] – опускаться по


22. aesthetic [Js'TetIk] - эстетичный

I. Structure of intonation.

II. The communicative function of intonation.


I. Structure of intonation. Intonation is a language universal. There are no languages which are spoken as a monotone? That is without any change of prosodic parameters. But intonation functions in various languages in a different way. It functions as “make-up” or “decoration” and “dictates” a specific background of the communicative process. Native speakers use it subconsciously. But in print no attempt has been made to convey intonation? Whereas the orthography always reminds us of the sounds a reader should produce properly.

A few decades ago phoneticians started paying attention not only to segmental units, but to suprasegmental ones as well. Thus the auditory and acoustic factors play a great role in description of any intonation, then we can speak about its linguistic function.

There is wide agreement among Soviet linguists that on perception level intonation is a complex, a whole, formed by significant variations of pitch, loudness and tempo (i.e. the rate of speech and pausation) closely related. Some Soviet linguists regard speech timbre as the fourth component of intonation. It is an undisputable fact that speech timbre conveys certain shades of attitudinal or emotional meaning. Nowadays there is another term “prosody” which embraces the three prosodic components and substitutes the term “intonation”.

Each syllable of the speech chain has a special pitch colouring. Some of the syllables have significant moves of tone up and down. Each syllable bears a definite amount of loudness. Pitch movements are inseparably connected with loudness. Together with the tempo of speech they form an intonation pattern which is the basic unit of intonation.

An intonation pattern contains one nucleus and may contain other stressed or unstressed syllables normally preceding or following the nucleus. The boundaries of an intonation pattern may be marked by stops of phonation, that is temporal pauses.

Intonation patterns serve to actualize syntagms in oral speech. It may be well to remind you here that the syntagm is a group of words which is semantically and syntactically complete. In phonetics actualized syntagms are called intonation groups. Each intonation group may consist of one or more potential syntagms, e.g. “I am sure they are lying” has two potential syntagms: “I am sure” and “they are lying”. In oral speech it is normally actualized as one intonation group.

The intonation group is a stretch of speech which may have the length of the whole phrase* (here we mean a sentence actualized in oral speech). But the phrase often contains more than one intonation group. The number of intonation groups depends on the length of the phrase and the degree of semantic importance or emphasis given to various parts of it, e.g.:

This topic is ′not ′spoken\about. - ׀This ′topic is not ′spoken \about.

An additional terminal tone on “this topic” expresses an emphasis on “this topic” in contrast to other topics.

Another example:

Last ׀spring |we spent our ′rest with the ′friends in the \Caucasus.||

Last ׀spring |we spent our ′rest with the ׀friends |in the Caucasus.||

The phrases above might be pronounced with either two or three intonation groups, which obviously affects the meaning.

Among the pitch parameters wу shall distinguish the three of them: variations in the direction of pitch, pitch level and pitch range. Pitch changes usually are viewed together with the variations of loudness.

Not all stressed syllables are equally important. One of the syllables has the greater prominence than the others and forms the nucleus, or focal point of an intonation pattern. The nucleus is the last strongly accented syllable which is generally the last strongly accented syllable of an intonation pattern and which marks a significant change of pitch direction, that is the pitch goes distinctly up or down. The nuclear tone is the most important part of the intonation pattern without which the latter cannot exist at all. On the other hand an intonation pattern may consist of one syllable which is its nucleus. According to R.Kingdon* (The Groundwork of English Intonation. – Ldn, 1958.) the most important nuclear tones in English are:

Low Fall

High Fall

Low Rise

High Rise

Fall - Rise






The falling tone

1) The falling tone of any level and range expresses “certainty”, “completeness”, “independence”. Thus a straight-forward statement normally ends with a falling tone since it asserts a fact of which the speaker is certain. It has an air of finality, e.g.

Where’s Tom? – He is at \school.

A rising tone

1) A rising tone of any level and range on the contrary expresses “uncertainty”, “incompleteness” or “dependence”. A general question, for example, has a rising tone, as the speaker is uncertain of the truth of what he is asking about, e.g.

Ihope he’ll come. – Isn’t he ′going to/visit you?

2) Parenthetical and subsidiary information in a statement is also often spoken witha rising tone, or a mid-level tone, because this information is incomplete, being dependent for its full under-standing on the assertion, e.g.

I’m not sure if I can accept your invitation. – If you>like we can

go to the ′restaurant with your \aunt.

3) Encouraging or polite denials, commands, invitations, greetings, farewells, etc. are generally spoken with a rising tone.

What shall we do now? – Do ′give it/up.

Can you stay with us? – Not to/ day.

A falling-rising

1) A falling-rising tone may combine the falling tone’s meaning of “assertion”, “certainty” with the rising tone’s meaning of dependence, incompleteness. At the end of a phrase it often conveys a feeling of reservation: it asserts some-thing and at the same time suggests that there is some-thing else to be said, e.g.

Do you play computer games? – \ Some / times. (but not usually)

2) At the beginning or in the middle of a phrase it is a more forceful alternative to the rising tone, expressing the assertion of one point, together with the implication that another point is to follow, that is the continuation is implied, e.g.

The students who ′work v hard | will ′get a \grant.

3) The falling-rising tone consists of a fall in pitch followed by a rise. If the nucleus is the last syllable of the intonation group the fall and rise take place on one syllable – the nuclear syllable. Otherwise the rise occurs in the remainder of the tone unit:

Do you mind it? – v Yes.

What shall I do to solve the problem? – You could say “\I’m / sorry.”

Low-Level tone is very characteristic of reading poetry. Though occasionally heard Mid-Level tone is particularly common in spontaneous speech functionally replacing the rising tone. This intonation pattern is usually used in non-final intonation groups expressing non-finality without any impression of expectancy.

The nucleus and the tail form what is called terminal tone. The two other sections of the intonation pattern are the head and the pre-head which form the pre-nuclear part of the intonation pattern and, like the tail, they may be considered as optional elements. The different types of pre-nucleus do not affect the grammatical meaning of the sentence but they can convey something of the speaker’s attitudes.

Two more pitch parameters which can considerably modify the pitch contour of the pitch-and-stress structure are pitch ranges and pitch levels of the whole intonation pattern or each of its sections. Variations in pitch range occur within the normal range of the human voice.

1. middle placing – “unmarked”

Placing in voice range 1. a) raising placing attitude /

presupposes 2. b) lowering placing emotions

Three pitch ranges are distinguished: normal, wide, narrow.

Normal Wide Narrow

The pitch range of a whole intonation unit is in fact the interval between the highest-pitched and the lowest-pitched syllables.

Let’s consider some examples of the known pitch span

“squeak range”

normal speaking range

“growl range”

1Hallo 2Hallo 3Hallo

1Hallo – a Middle Fall. There is no particular attitude. This is the “unmarked”,

“newspapers” manner of speaking.

2Hallo – Some attitude is indicated. It is said with a smile and a breathy quality in the

voice. You are happy or exited; use friendly gestures and “warm” voice.

3Hallo – refusal to express emotions.

1. medium - unmarked

Pitch span2. extended – exposed emo-

3. restricted – unexposed tions

4Hallo 5Hallo 6Hallo 7Hallo

4Hallo – we are nervous and afraid of something

5Hallo – a member of the male sex towards a young pretty member of the female sex.

6Hallo – we are in state of nervousness and excitement (but without fear of showing any

emotions). Some positive attitude or emotion is being expressed.

7Hallo – desire to express sincerity, responsibility, heartfelt emotion.

One will go down / up in one’s normal speaking range.

Pitch levels may be high, medium and low.




The meaning of the intonation group is the combination of the “meaning” of the terminal tone and the pre-nuclear part combined with the “meaning” of pitch range and pitch level. The parts of the intonation pattern can be combined in various ways representing changes in meaning, cf.: The High Level Head combined with the Low Fall, The High Fall, The Low Rise, The High Rise, The Fall-Rise.

Come at \ night. – reserved, calm; firm, serious, pressing

Come at / night. – encouraging, friendly, soothing, patronizing

Come at ' night. - questioning

Come at night. – surprising, concerned

Come at v night. - intensely encouraging, protesting

It should be noted that the more the height of the pitch contrasts within the intonation pattern the more emphatic the intonation group sounds.

Unbe \ lievable. (calm, unemotional, unsympathetic)

She has returned.

Unbe \ lievable. (expressing reproach, contradict-


The tempo is the third component of intonation. It implies the rate of the utterance and pausation. The rate of speech can be normal, slow and fast. The parts of the utterance which are particularly important sound slower. Unimportant parts are commonly pronounced at a greater speed than normal, e.g.

“My mother considers John to be the most responsible young man she has ever seen,” – said Kate.

The word combination “the most responsible young man” expresses the main idea of the utterance that is why it is the slowest part of it.

Any stretch of speech can be split into smaller portions, i.e. phonetic wholes (a chain of oral speech which is semantically and intonationally complete), phrases, intonation groups by means of pauses. By “pause” we mean a complete stop of phonation. They can be:

    1. short to separate intonation groups within a phrase;

    2. longer to manifest the end of the phrase;

    3. very long to separate phonetic wholes.

Functionally, there may be distinguished these types of pauses:


They separate phonopassages, phrases, and intonation groups.


Serve to make especially prominent certain parts of the utterance, e.g.

Do you know who I am? I am your would-be mother-in-law.

Emphatic pauses often keep a listener in suspense and therefore it is an effective device to arrest one’s attention.

hesitation pauses

Are mainly used in spontaneous speech to gain some to think over what to say. They can be vocalized, e.g.

Hm | I really have no idea.

A vocal pause appears as a result of a speaker’s intention to create an illusion of uninterrupted speech.

While teaching students we are to realize that intonation patterns can range in various ways - from completely colourless in meaning to extremely emphatic. Prosody as a phonostylistic universe is of great importance being a background of any communicative process. It serves not only a mechanical function, it gives an implication of some attitude or emotion to a listener.

II. The communicative function of intonation.It is realized in various ways. It serves:

      1. to structure the intonation content of a textual unit so as to show which information is new or cannot be taken for granted.

      2. to determine the speech function of a phrase, that is to define its communicative type (a statement, a question, a command, an exclamation).

      3. to convey connotational meaning of “attitude” such as surprise, annoyance, sympathy, indignation, enthusiasm, irony, sarcasm, etc., this can be rendered by means not only of lexical units but by grammatical structures as well, i.e.

I am →′glad with your ′progress ↑so \much.

This statement can possess some shade of irony with the help of intonation.

      1. to structure a text. It is an organizing mechanism, it delimitates texts into smaller units, i.e. phonetic passages, phrases and intonation groups, and on the other hand it integrates these smaller constituents forming a complete text. The organization of connections between phrases manifests how one idea leads on from another.

      2. to differentiatethe meaning of textual units (i.e. intonation groups, phrases and sometimes phonetic passages) of the same grammatical structure and the same lexical composition, which is the distinctive or phonological function. The distinctive function of intonation is realized in the opposition of the same word sequences which differ in certain parameters of the intonation pattern. Intonation patterns make their distinctive contribution at intonation group, phrase and text levels, e.g.

\Call me if Nelly 'arrives in the \evening. (no one but Nelly is expected to arrive)

\Call me if \Nelly ׀arrives in the ׀evening. (a few people are expected to arrive)

      1. to characterize a particular style or variety of oral speech which may be called the stylistic function.

7. to transmit feelings, emotions and modality. It helps to express the speaker’s inner state: nervous (oftener makes pauses, ending elision, shift of rhythm, half crying, etc), indignant (loud voice + high pitch, screams, etc.), overwhelming with emotions (Fall-Rise, accidental rise, etc) in oral speech. The speaker must be particularly careful about the attitudes and emotions he expresses since the hearer is frequently more interested in the speaker’s attitude or feeling than in his words – grammatically or stylistically correct / incorrect, nicely, etc.

\What? – with Low Fall it sounds detached, suppressing, categorical, sometimes even hostile.

>What? With Low-Rise it expresses some shade of emotional meaning “to the point”, interested, sympathetic, friendly, concerned.

8. to tie the major parts together within the phrase and to tie phrases together within the text (grammatical function) – showing, in the process, what things belong more closely together than the others, where the divisions come, what is subordinated to what, and if one is telling, asking, commanding or exclaiming.

Intonation also aims to show which information is new for the listener. In oral

English the smallest piece of intonation is associated with an intonation group (a unit of intonation containing the nucleus). There is no exact match between punctuation in writing and intonation group in speech. Speech is more variable in its structuring of information than in writing. Cutting up the speech into intonation groups depends on such things as speed at which you are speaking, what emphasis you want to give to the parts of the message, and the length of grammatical units. A single phrase may have just one intonation group; but when the length of the phrase is beyond a certain point, it is difficult not to split it into two or more separate pieces of information, i.e.

The girl declared we could leave our suitcases here.

The girl declared | we could leave our suitcases at the hotel.

The girl declared | we could leave our suitcases | at the hotel situated just round the corner.

Accentual systems involve more than singling out important words by accenting them. Intonation group or phrase accentuation focuses on the nucleus of these intonation units. The nucleus marks the focus of information or the part of the pattern to which the speaker especially draws the hearer’s attention. The focus of information may be concentrated on a single word or spread over a group of words. Even words like personal pronouns, prepositions and auxiliaries, which are not normally stressed at all, can receive nuclear stress for special contrastive purposes:

This isn’t \your pen, it’s \ mine.

We can roughly divide the given information into:

retrievable (or the theme)

It suggests information which has already been mentioned or alluded to.

Retrieved information can be delivered from:

1) verbal context;

2) situational context.

new (or the rheme)

New information is obviously the most important in a message, it receives the information focus

It is 8 o’clock. The secretary must be coming.

“The secretary” may be considered to be the theme, “must be coming” – the rheme.

But if we accent the word with Low Fall it may function as the rheme.

The \secretary must be coming.

Information may be considered to be main and subsidiary from the point of view of its importance for the listener e.g.

We met your husband there at five.

main subsidiary

Any section of the intonation pattern can perform the distinctive function being phonological units. These units form a complex system of intonemes, tonemes, accentemes, chronemes, etc. These phonological units like phonemes consist of a number of allotones, which are mutually non-distinctive. The principal allotone is realized in the nucleus alone. The subsidiary allotones are realized not only in the nucleus, but also in the pre-head and in the tail if any, e.g.

\Yes. \Yes, John. Oh, \yes, John.

Taken together the increase of loudness and terminal tones serve to single out the semantic center (the information center which may simultaneously concentrate the expression of attitudes and feelings) of the utterance.

Though there are cases when intonation is in condition with the syntactic structure and the lexical content of the utterance neutralizing and compensating them, e.g.: A statement may sound questioning, interested. In this case intonation neutralizes its grammatical structure. It compensates the grammatical means of expressing this kind of meaning:

Do you know who it is up to decide? – ׀No. (questioning)

Sometimes it happens when intonation neutralizes or compensates the lexical content of the utterance, e.g.

Command: “→Fetch her at \once, please.”

“Please” is neutralized by intonation.

Due to the connotation intonation renders it is possible to define synonymic intonation patterns (tones), e.g.

Utterances pronounced with Low Fall can coincide in some shades of meaning (implications) with those of High Fall:

Where is my mobile phone? -\ Martin borrowed it. Low Fall and High Fall both

- Martin borrowed it express finality, are used in

categoric detached statements

Any language (English is not exclusion) is not only a means of giving and receiving information, it is more than that, it is communication between people. It commonly expresses the attitude and emotions of the speaker and he often uses it to influence the attitudes and emotions of the speaker and he often uses it to influence the attitudes and behaviour of the listener. Intonation “seasons” the reported information; it makes it “spicy” otherwise the message becomes “tasteless”, “colourless”.

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