Table of Content:
1. Intonation in English language
1.1. Elements of intonation
1.2. Functions of intonation
1.2.1. Attitudinal functions
1.2.2. Accentual functions
1.2.3. Grammatical functions
1.2.4. Discourse functions
2. The use of intonation
2.1. Variations of pitch
2.1.1. Pitch height
2.1.2. Pitch movement
2.2.1. Falling tone
2.2.2. Rising tone
2.2.3. Fall-rise tone
2.2.4. High fall tone
2.2.5. Low fall tone
2.2.6. High rise tone
2.2.7. Mid-level rise tone
2.2.8. Low rise tone
2.4. American and British English intonation
2.4.1. British analyses
2.4.2. American analyses
3. The main rules of using intonation
3.1. Learning to intone correctly
3.2. The rules of intoning
Picture 1 Intonation pitch (example)
Picture 2 British English phonemic chart
Picture 3 American English phonemic chart
Intonation in English is important because with it you can give the sentence a meaningful load and emotional expression. Understanding intonation features is also important, as is the pronunciation of sounds. With the right intonation, you can create a positive emotional background during communication.
“When communicating with foreigners, communication barriers may arise, if the intonation component is not taken into account” – were the words of the author Irene in the article “The basic rules of intonation of the English language” on the web site https://www.englishdom.com.
The problem with intonation is that it is not always ideal. At the first conversation with foreigners, the English intonation is mixed with the accent of the non-native speaker of the English language. In such cases intonation is well studied by researchers in Kazakhstan and mostly in abroad. But still there are questions that require more attention. In connection with this, this research studies the features of intonation, functions, elements, and rules for the correct use of intonation, which is an innovation. The relevance of the selected topic seems obvious in the light of the problem of the effectiveness of speech communication, especially in the framework of interethnic communication, since speech units of circulation help to organize the communication process, and their corresponding intonation design determines the tone of communication and its success as a whole (Ph.D. Pankratova M.). 23
The purpose of this study is a general examination of intonation and the rules of intonation.
Analyze the theoretical features of intonation (functions, elements and use)
List the rules for correct pronunciation of intonation
1. Intonation in English language
In any language, intonation serves for the external formulation of the sentence. With the help of intonation, listener understands whether the sentence is a narrative, a question, a request or an exclamation.
For example, the proposal “Today’s warm” can be an affirmation, a question and an exclamation depending on the intonation with which the sentence is pronounced. Intonation also expresses our emotions: surprise, irritation, joy, discontent, etc.
Each language has its own special, characteristic for it intonation, markedly different from the intonation of other languages. In English, intonation plays a particularly important role due to the strongly expressed analytical nature of the language. (In analytical languages, the relations between words are expressed not by means of endings, as in Russian, but by means of auxiliary words: prepositions, articles, auxiliary verbs, and also by intonation.) 1
1.1 Elements of intonation
Elements of intonation are:
melodic speech, which is carried out by raising or lowering the voice in the phrase (compare the pronunciation of the narrative and interrogative sentence);
rhythm of speech, i.?. alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables;
the tempo, i.?. speed or slowness of speech and pauses between speech segments (compare speech slow and speech patter);
timbre, i.e. sound coloring, giving those or other emotionally expressive shades (timbre “cheerful”, “playful”, “gloomy”, etc.);
Phrase and logical stress, which serve as a means of highlighting individual words in a sentence. 2
As already mentioned above, long sentences are divided into separate semantic groups, which depend on the general meaning of the sentence, its grammatical structure and style of speech.
Each semantic group has a certain intonation, which indicates the completeness or incompleteness of the thought in it. Usually only the last semantic group indicates that the thought in this sentence is over; in the previous semantic groups intonation is used, which indicates the incompleteness of thought. For example, in the sentence: “In June, July and August, children do not go to school” in the first three semantic groups: “In June, July and August” the idea of ??the sentence is not finished, and accordingly, the intonation used indicates this.
The number of semantic segments in a sentence depends on the rate of speech, i.e. whether we make proposals quickly or slowly. For example, when dictating sentences, the rate of speech will be much slower than in colloquial speech. Thus, there will be more semantic segments at dictation, and they will be shorter.
English intonation differs significantly from Russian, both melody and phrase accentuation. The lowering or raising of the voice on the last stressed word in the sentence are the two main tones of English intonation (however, Russian too) in a descending tone and ascending tone. 3
1.2 Functions of intonation
Intonation is a powerful means of human intercommunication. One of the aims of communication is the exchange of information between people. The meaning of an English utterance derives not only from the grammatical structure, the lexical composition and the sound pattern. It also derives from variations of intonation or its prosodic parameters. We can see that intonation makes it easier for a listener to understand what a speaker is trying to convey. The ways in which intonation does this are very complex, and there exist various points of view on the number and aims of intonation functions in a language.
discourse functions 16
Attitudinal function of intonation expresses the mood and emotions of a speaker, their attitude to the certain situation and also to the listener or other interlocutor. This function is expressed only by intonation as well.
A single sentence can be pronounced in a number of different ways depending on intonation of the utterance. For instance, “what a beautiful day!” may be interpreted in the following ways:
(a) “What a beautiful day!” Simple fall pattern of intonation – meaning: when said perfunctorily;
(b) “What a beautiful day!” Rising intonation – meaning: when said enthusiastically;
(c) “What a beautiful day!” Rising-fall intonation – meaning: when said sarcastically.
However, intonation can create differences in meaning that go further beyond attitudinal information. The sentence “I didn´t get the job because of my husband.” can be understood from two points of view depending on intonation.
1. The sentence “I didn´t get the job because of my husband.” pronounced with the falling intonation means that the speaker did not get the job because her husband messed things up.
2. The same sentence “I didn´t get the job because of my husband.” pronounced with the rising intonation at the end of the utterance means that the speaker did get the job but her husband could not claim any credit for the achievement Lier,1995:25.
Besides we should also bear in mind the conversational maxims. The success of a conversation depends upon the various speakers’ approach to the interaction. The way in which people try to make conversations work is sometimes called a co-operative principle.
This can be explained by four underlying rules or maxims. (They are also named Grice’s maxims, after the language philosopher, H.P. Grice.) They are the maxims of quality, quantity, relevance and manner.
a) Quality – speakers should tell the truth. They should not say what they think is false, or make statements for which they lack evidence.
b) Quantity – a contribution should be as informative as is required for the conversation to proceed. It should be neither too little, nor too much. (It is not clear how one can decide what quantity of information satisfies the maxim in a given case.)
c) Relevance – speakers’ contributions should relate clearly to the purpose of the exchange.
d) Manner – speakers’ contributions should be perspicuous: clear, orderly and brief, avoiding obscurity and ambiguity. 16
1.2.2 Accentual function
The term “accentual” refers to stress. In other words, the placement of stress is determined by intonation. It is said that word stress is independent of intonation and intonation is carried by the stress syllables of a tone-unit. So, what is the deal with the accentual function of intonation and the placing of stress?
The aspect of the stress as part of the intonation is the placement of the tonic stress within the tonic-unit.
One thing that is of a great linguistic importance is the location of the tonic syllable. Its usual position is on the last lexical word of the tone unit. Below are two examples that show the normal placement and the contrastive placement.
Example 1 – Normal placementI want to know where he’s ravelling to.Note: The word “to” is a preposition here, not a lexical word, therefore it is not stressed.
Example 2 – Contrastive placementI don’t want to know where he’s travelling /from.
In a similar way, the stressed can be place in other positions for the purpose of emphasis. Below are two examples, the first is non-emphatic and the second is emphatic.
Example 1 – Non-emphaticIt was very ad.
Example 2 – EmphaticIt was very bad.
As you can see, placement of tonic stress is important and closely related to intonation. 19
1.2.3 Grammatical function
Grammatical function is important because intonation becomes important part of grammatical realization of an utterance. Antipova et al. ibid. set the example of a simple sentence showing necessity of unambiguity with plain communicative goal without distinguishing in pitch and stress. So the following sentence (utterance) can be taken for a statement, a question, an exclamation, or an implication of one´s attitude depending on intonation: He´s passed his exam. – A (pure) statement He´s passed his e^xam? – A question He´s passed his exam? – a question as an expression of surprise /it is unbelievable that he has passed his exam because he had not been studying a lot) He´s passed his exam. – An exclamation He´s passed his e^xam. – A statement suggesting that he must know something, he may not be so lazy and now he deserves to take a rest after all. 17
1.2.4 Discourse function
The discourse function of intonation analyzes that sentences’ occurrence in the larger contexts.For example, let’s take a look at the following sentences:
Have you got free time this morning?I might have later on if that meeting’s off.They were talking about putting it later.You can’t be sure.
Each of the four sentences can be studied in isolation and analyzed in terms of grammatical structure, lexical content and so on. But it is clear that these sentences are part of a larger conversation between two people. Usually, in such situations, the meaning of a sentence can be understood only if the preceded conversation is known.
When it comes to the study of intonation in relation to discourse, we identify two main areas:
The use of intonation to focus the listener’s attention on the message that is the most important.
The regulation of conversational behavior.
In the case of attention focusing, the placing of tonic stress on the proper syllable on a particular word in the tone–unit is the most obvious use. In many cases, the tonic stress is placed on the word that is the most important (example: I went to Thailand).
Sometimes, describing the tonic stress placement according to information content seems to be more appropriate. If a word’s occurrence in a given sentence is more predictable then the information content of that word is lower too. Tonic stress tends to be placed on the words with higher information content.
Examples:I have to take the dog for a walk.I have to take the dog to the vet.
Obviously, the word “vet” is less predictable so it has higher information content than the word “walk”. However, there are many cases when it is very difficult to figure out which word is more important or has more information content; therefore, the placement of the tonic stress based on these criteria is practically impossible.
Another way in which intonation can assist in focusing attention is the tone chosen. Let’s take a look at the following example:
Example:| Since the /last time we met | when we had that huge /dinner | I’ve been on a diet |
The first two tone units, present information that is relevant to what the speaker is saying but which is not something new to the listener. The final tone-unit presents new information. It is said that falling tone indicates new information while rising tone (or falling-rising) indicates given information.
Intonation is quite important in conversational interaction of two or more speakers. There isn’t much study on this and the study that is done had been done on conversational interaction of a rather restricted kind (between doctor and patient, teacher and pupil etc.) In such material it is relatively easy to identify what each speaker “is doing” in speaking (questioning, challenging, advising etc.)
So, speakers use different prosodic components to indicate to others that they have finished speaking, that the other person is expected to speak, that a particular kind of response is expected, etc.
It seems that all other functions of intonation (attitudinal, accentual, and grammatical) could be seen as different aspects of discourse function.
Some may consider that the discourse approach is useless but even if it is, at least it has shown that how inadequate is to analyze the function of intonation based on an isolated sentence, removed from it linguistic situational context.18
2. The use of intonation
In linguistics, intonation is variation of spoken pitch that is not used to distinguish words; instead it is used for a range of functions such as indicating the attitudes and emotions of the speaker, signaling the difference between statements and questions, and between different types of questions, focusing attention on important elements of the spoken message and also helping to regulate conversational interaction. It contrasts with tone, in which pitch variation in some languages distinguishes words, either lexically or grammatically.
So, the intonation is used to describe variation of pitch, tone, stress, tempo and rhythm.
2.1 Variations of pitch
Voice pitch is essentially the only physical instrument we manipulate to produce the wanted intonation, music or whatever you want to call it. The purpose of using different patterns of pitch height (pitch height is an aspect of stress) and pitch movement (pitch movement is the basis for tone and intonation) is to convey specific meanings, ideas, messages, mood, feelings and emotions.
Intonation refers to the rise and fall of voice pitch over entire phrases and sentences, even in non-tone languages, such as English (picture 1):
Picture 1 Intonation pitch (example)
2.1.1 Pitch Height
There are roughly 4 to 6 different pitch levels but we’re going to keep it simple and deal with only 4: Low Pitch, Neutral Pitch, High Pitch and Extra High Pitch. As this seems to be an intense situation where the couple appears to be having an argument, it is natural that the voice pitch reaches the “high” and “extra high” level. Pitch height is one form of sentence stress. Word stress and sentence stress both create the rhythm of the sentence while pitch height (also referred to as added stress) adds an emotional dimension to it. So basically, it would be safe to say that sentence stress is a common area between rhythm, and voice pitch.
2.1.2 Pitch Movement
Pitch movement is slightly more complicated than Pitch height as it plays a more subtle role in the delivery of the sentence. It is truly the key factor in “humanizing” or naturalizing the English speech. With pitch movement, we do the following:
We let others know when we end a thought.
We let others know that we still haven’t finished a thought.
We let others know whether we expect them to answer us and how we expect them to do it.
We let others know how we feel.
We use it for persuasion, irony, humor, criticism, bragging, sympathy, flirting etc.
There are many other functions we can list, however, for the sake of simplicity we will stick to these 5 major functions.
2.2.1 Falling tone
In English, the descending tone is a gradual decrease in the tone of the voice on the stressed syllables, (as if the shock syllables are descending along the ladder), and the voice drops rather sharply on the last striking word.
In the Russian language, a small increase in the tone of the voice at the end of the word occurs in each stressed word, and the downward tone itself does not sound very sharp. English descending tone resembles the Russian intonation of the insistent team in monosyllabic words.
Stand! The falling tone (the Falling Tone) is a tone of categorical affirmation, completeness, and definiteness. Therefore, it is usually used in the following cases:
At the end of exclamation sentences:
What a nice house!
At the end of short narrative sentences (affirmative and negative):
I will come soon.
It’s difficult to say.
I don’t know where he is.
She didn’t call me.
At the end of imperative sentences expressing an order, command or prohibition:
Leave the dog alone!
At the end of special questions beginning with interrogative pronouns:
Who? Who is in the house?
At the end of the second part of the alternative question, suggesting a choice of two possible options. An alternative or selective question consists of two general questions connected by the “or” union:
Were you at the cinema or at the theatre yesterday?
(In Russian, there often sounds a rising tone in both parts of the question.)
At the end of the first part of the separative issue, which is a narrative sentence:
You know him, don’t you?
At the end of the second part of the separative question, when the questioner is sure of the correctness of the message of the first part and does not wait for any additional information, but only expresses the desire to confirm that this judgment is true:
It is warm today, isn’t it?
Saying greeting at a meeting:
Good afternoon! Good morning!
Highlighting the appeal at the beginning of the sentence:
Pete, where is your pen? Alice, come into the room.
Highlighting the application at the end of the sentence:
This is my friend, an artist.
At the end of the subordinate clause in front of the main clause, if the last sentence is pronounced with an ascending tone:
When you come home, will you call me?
Exercises for the use of a downward tone.
At the end of exclamation sentences:
What a horrid little flat!
At the end of the short narrative sentences:
have a lot of time to spare.
At the end of the imperative sentences:
Do as you are told!
At the end of the special questions:
What has happened to you?
At the end of the first part of the separative question:
You can come to the party, can’t you?
At the end of the second part of the separative question:
The station is far, isn’t it?
Saying greeting at a meeting:
Selecting the appeal at the beginning of the sentence:
John, will you help me please?
Highlighting the application at the end of the sentence:
This is my teacher, Miss Vivien.
At the end of the clause:
When you see her, will you tell her to come?
2.2.2 Rising tone
The rising tone in the English sentence differs from the Russian ascending tone in that the first stressed syllable is pronounced at a rather low level, and the rise of the voice occurs gradually on the last stressed syllable.
Is he at home?
Do you hear me?
Is the reany body here?
Can you help me?
Are you sure he will come?
This tone resembles the Russian intonation of the interrogation with a small amount of surprise. For example:
Bella in London. – In London?
Say the following words and phrases with an ascending tone:
Beautiful? In the center of the city?
Necessary? In the middle of the room?
An ascending tone is a tone of uncertainty, incompleteness, uncertainty, doubt. Therefore, ascending tone is usually pronounced:
My brother and I went on an excursion.
Circumstance at the beginning of the sentence:
Last year there was a lot of snow in the streets of our town.
Each of the listed homogeneous members of the proposal, except the last, if it is the end of the narrative sentence:
There are books, exercise books, pens and pencils on the desks.
General questions starting with auxiliary or modal verbs and requiring answers “yes” or “no”:
Have you ever been to London?
The second part of the separation issue, if the questioner wishes to receive any additional information, since he is not sure of the correctness of the information in the first part of the question:
You’ve got this book, haven’t you?
The first part of the questions suggesting a choice (alternative questions), since this part of the question, in fact, is a common question:
Have you seen this film on TV or at the cinema?
Imperative proposals expressing a polite request:
Will you lock the door please?
With a descending tone, the request turns into an order.
Primitive sentences facing the main:
As soon as I arrive at the hotel, I will let you know.
• Words of farewell, gratitude, and also the expression all right:
Good-bye! See you tomorrow.Thank you. All right.
If the expression all right is pronounced with a descending tone, then it can be perceived as a threat.
Speak the highlighted parts of the sentences with an ascending tone:
My wife and I went to Italy for our holidays. Circumstance at the beginning of the sentence:
In the middle of the room there was a table. General questions:
Do you have your meals at home? The first part of the alternative question:
Is your daughter at home or at school now? The second part of the separation issue:
The room is not very comfortable, is it? Homogeneous members of the sentence:
I’d like to buy milk, bread, butter and cheese. Polite request:
Will you tell me the time, please? Primitive sentences facing the main:
When it’s time to go to bed, kids usually become very naughty. • Words of farewell, gratitude, and also the expression all right:
Good-bye! 2.2.3 Fall-rise tone
The descending-ascending tone is often used in English colloquial speech to express various kinds of emotions from doubt to a friendly objection. Fall – rise occur:
within one word: No. Yes.
Within two adjacent syllables: That’s right.
Within two syllables separated by one or more unstressed syllables: Difficult. Necessary.
The range of our voice can be schematically represented as two parallel horizontal lines. When a downward-rising tone is spoken, the voice first decreases within the syllable to the lowest level of the range (i.e., to the very bottom of the horizontal line), and then gradually rises, but does not reach a too high level. The descending-ascending tone in its melodic pattern somewhat resembles the intonation of the call in Russian, for example: “And I will not!”
The descending-ascending tone, besides the statement of a certain fact, contains a different kind of subtext, i.e. what is implied, in particular:
I believe his name is Philip. – David.
a soft, friendly objection:
I am afraid that’s not so.
What color is her dress? It may be gray.
I have a lot of Russian books, but no French books.
Say the phrase “Not very” with a descending-ascending tone to express a soft, friendly objection:
This radio set is good, isn’t it?- Not very. Say the cues in the dialogs with a descending-ascending tone to express clarification:
– The photos are in the box, aren’t they?- In the album. Pronounce the second part of the sentence with a descending-ascending tone to express an opposition:
I want to go to the village, but not in winter. Say the cues in the dialogs with a descending-ascending tone to express an assumption:
– Where is my hat?- It may be on the armchair.
2.2.4 High fall
A high drop is an emphatic kind of drop tone. It can be used in informal situations to display lively interest and friendliness, usually in exclamation sentences. Examples:
OH HI! How NICE! What a surPRISE!
A high drop starts much higher than a dropping tone, and goes down into the lower part of the normal range of speech, but not always as low as the tone of the slide. Shock syllable, which is a high decrease, is pronounced louder, and the stress on it is stronger.
Although this tone is often found in conversational speech, the student of the language should use it carefully and not too often. He is emphatic and very expressive and, depending on the situation, can express various strong feelings from admiration and delight to disgust and horror.
2.2.5 Low fall
The lowering of the pitch of the voice to the lower part of the normal range of speech and the use of low lowering as the final tone in the sentence can indicate, depending on the situation, feelings such as disappointment, sadness, hopelessness, sympathy, sincerity, responsibility, fear, threat. When strong feelings are expressed, a low decrease can be emphatic. A low drop starts much lower than the tone of the slide, and the speaker usually speaks less loudly, in a low voice, and sometimes even close to whispering.
A low-level low drop at the end of a sentence can be used in a group of words added as an additional thought after the final slide, or in the words of the author at the end of the sentence (if they are important). For example: I think I saw your cell phone in the kitchen, on the windowsill. ” Stop it!” a woman’s voice.
If the speaker wants to indicate the end of his entire statement (after he spoke for a while), the entire last sentence can be pronounced at a lower level with low-drop intonation and with a low-low tone at the end.
2.2.6 High rise
The high rise is the emphatic tone of the enhancement, which can be used to express strong surprise or disbelief, mostly in the astonished resent of what was heard. Examples:
/What? You lost my /money?
A high boost starts higher than the normal boost tone, goes to the top of the normal range of speech, and ends much higher than the normal boost tone. Depending on the expressed emotion, a high increase may even go beyond the upper limit of the normal range of speech.
Depending on the situation, a high increase can also indicate amazement, indignation, anger, etc. Because a high increase is emphatic, very expressive, and can point to different emotions, it is advisable to learn to use the tone in speech when studying the language.
2.2.7 Mid-level rise
The increase at the middle level is used mainly in informal American speech, for example, in appeals, in introductory phrases, in subordinate clauses at the beginning of the sentence.
The rise at the middle level begins at the middle level (or slightly higher) and immediately goes up (not too high) – without an easy slide at first, which makes the usual tone of the rise. Example: Mrs. / Smith, thisis Annie, my niece.
2.2.8 Low rise
A low rise can be used in a group of words added (as a reference, as a sentence of something, from politeness, etc.) at the end of the sentence after the final slide. A low rise begins and ends lower than the normal tone of the rise.
A low rise usually indicates a polite interest of the speaker and his willingness to continue the conversation. Examples: Good to see you, / Alan. You can stay here, if you / like.
Tempo of speech is the speed with which sentences or their parts are pronounced. According to Tseplitis tempo may be constitutive, situational and individual. Constitutive tempo is that which is inherent to the l-ge and its forms and to definite segments of an utterance. We may come across some examples of constitutive tempo in cases of acceleration of segments of speech (interjections, particles).
Situational tempo depends upon elements of special situation, e.g. on number of listeners, on their ability to apprehend the context, on acoustic properties of the apartment.
Individual is a tempo which the speaker is accustomed to and which is normal, convenient to him. It is connected with psychophysical properties of a person, with his temperament and so on.
Quick tempo means joy, gaiety, enthusiasm. Slow tempo means depression, inertia and meditations. Very slow tempo is a characteristic feature of a hampered speech, official solemn speech; it is used in a delivery of solemn promise, oath, in reading out the judicial sentence.
2.4 American vs. British English intonation
2.4.1 British analyses
British descriptions of English intonation can be traced back to the 16th century. Early in the 20th century the dominant approach in the description of English and French intonation was based on a small number of basic “tunes” associated with intonation units: in a typical description, Tune 1 is falling, with final fall, while Tune 2 has a final rise. Phoneticians such as H. E. Palmer broke up the intonation of such units into smaller components, the most important of which was the nucleus, which corresponds to the main accented syllable of the intonation unit, usually in the last lexical word of the intonation unit. Each nucleus carries one of a small number of nuclear tones, usually including fall, rise, fall-rise, rise-fall, and possibly others. The nucleus may be preceded by a head containing stressed syllables preceding the nucleus, and a tail consisting of syllables following the nucleus within the tone unit. Unstressed syllables preceding the head (if present) or nucleus (if there is no head) constitute a pre-head. This approach was further developed by Halliday and by O’Connor and Arnold, though with considerable variation in terminology. This “Standard British” treatment of intonation in its present-day form is explained in detail by Wells and in a simplified version by Roach. Halliday saw the functions of intonation as depending on choices in three main variables: Tonality (division of speech into intonation units), Tonicity (the placement of the tonic syllable or nucleus) and Tone (choice of nuclear tone); these terms (sometimes referred to as “the three T’s”) have been used more recently.
Research by Crystal emphasized the importance of making generalizations about intonation based on authentic, unscripted speech, and the roles played by prosodic features such as tempo, pitch range, loudness and rhythmicality in communicative functions usually attributed to intonation.
The transcription of intonation in such approaches is normally incorporated into the line of text. A typical example would be:
We ?looked at the ?sky | and ?saw the ?clouds
In this example, the | mark indicates a division between intonation units.
An influential development in British studies of intonation has been Discourse Intonation, an offshoot of Discourse Analysis first put forward by David Brazil. This approach lays great emphasis on the communicative and informational use of intonation, pointing out its use for distinguishing between presenting new information and referring to old, shared information, as well as signalling the relative status of participants in a conversation (e.g. teacher-pupil, or doctor-patient) and helping to regulate conversational turn-taking. The description of intonation in this approach owes much to Halliday. Intonation is analysed purely in terms of pitch movements and “key” and makes little reference to the other prosodic features usually thought to play a part in conversational interaction.
Picture 2 British English phonemic chart
2.4.2 American analyses
The dominant framework used for American English from the 1940s to the 1990s was based on the idea of pitch phonemes, or tonemes. In the work of Trager and Smith there are four contrastive levels of pitch: low (1), middle (2), high (3), and very high (4). (Unfortunately, the important work of Kenneth Pike on the same subject had the four pitch levels labelled in the opposite way, with (1) being high and (4) being low). In its final form, the Trager and Smith system was highly complex, each pitch phoneme having four pitch allophones (or allotones); there was also a Terminal Contour to end an intonation clause, as well as four stress phonemes. Some generalizations using this formalism are given below. It should be noted that the American linguist Dwight Bolinger carried on a long campaign to argue that pitch contours were more important in the study of intonation than individual pitch levels.
Normal conversation is usually at middle or high pitch; low pitch occurs at the end of utterances other than yes–no questions, while high pitch occurs at the end of yes–no questions. Very high pitch is for strong emotion or emphasis. Pitch can indicate attitude: for example, Great uttered in isolation can indicate weak emotion (with pitch starting medium and dropping to low), enthusiasm (with pitch starting very high and ending low), or sarcasm (with pitch starting and remaining low).
Declarative sentences show a 2–3–1 pitch pattern. If the last syllable is prominent the final decline in pitch is a glide. For example, in This is fun, this is is at pitch 2, and funstarts at level 3 and glides down to level 1. But if the last prominent syllable is not the last syllable of the utterance, the pitch fall-off is a step. For example, in That can be frustrating, That can be has pitch 2, frus- has level 3, and both syllables of -trating have pitch 1. Wh-questions work the same way, as in Who (2) will (2) help (3?1)? and Who (2) did (3) it (1)?. But if something is left unsaid, the final pitch level 1 is replaced by pitch 2. Thus in John’s (2) sick (3?2) …, with the speaker indicating more to come, John’s has pitch 2 while sick starts at pitch 3 and drops only to pitch 2.
Yes–no questions with a 2?3 intonation pattern usually have subject-verb inversion, as in Have (2) you (2) got (2) a (2) minute (3, 3)? (Here a 2?4 contour would show more emotion, while a 1?2 contour would show uncertainty.) Another example is Has (2) the (2) plane (3) left (3) already (3, 3, 3)?, which, depending on the word to be emphasized, could move the location of the rise, as in Has (2) the (2) plane (2) left (3) already (3, 3, 3)? or Has (2) the (2) plane (2) left (2) already (2, 3, 3)? And for example the latter question could also be framed without subject-verb inversion but with the same pitch contour: The (2) plane (2) has (2) left (2) already (2, 3, 3)?
Tag questions with declarative intent at the end of a declarative statement follow a 3?1 contour rather than a rising contour, since they are not actually intended as yes–no questions, as in We (2) should (2) visit (3, 1) him (1), shouldn’t (3, 1) we (1)? But tag questions exhibiting uncertainty, which are interrogatory in nature, have the usual 2?3 contour, as in We (2) should (2) visit (3, 1) him (1), shouldn’t (3, 3) we (3)?
Questions with or can be ambiguous in English writing with regard to whether they are either-or questions or yes–no questions. But intonation in speech eliminates the ambiguity. For example, Would (2) you (2) like (2) juice (3) or (2) soda (3, 1)? emphasizes juice and soda separately and equally, and ends with a decline in pitch, thus indicating that this is not a yes–no question but rather a choice question equivalent to Which would you like: juice or soda? In contrast, Would (2) you (2) like (2) juice (3) or (3) soda (3, 3)? has yes–no intonation and thus is equivalent to Would you like something to drink (such as juice or soda)?
Thus the two basic sentence pitch contours are rising-falling and rising. However, other within-sentence rises and falls result from the placement of prominence on the stressed syllables of certain words.
Note that for declaratives or WH-questions with a final decline, the decline is located as a step-down to the syllable after the last prominently stressed syllable, or as a down-glide on the last syllable itself if it is prominently stressed. But for final rising pitch on yes–no questions, the rise always occurs as an upward step to the last stressed syllable, and the high (3) pitch is retained through the rest of the sentence.
Picture 3 American English phonemic chart
3. The main rules of intonation in English language
3.1 Learning to intone correctly
The best way to master the rules of intonation in English is practice. Listen to the speech of the carriers, imitate them. With regular classes or conversations, you can quickly understand and remember the principles of correct intonation.
It is very important to choose a qualified teacher. Of course, it must be a native speaker of English. The problem is that today in many Russian cities foreigners with a completely different specialty are taken as teachers. That’s why it’s better to choose a Skype class with a person who has documents, and most importantly – the necessary qualifications and knowledge to teach.
During live communication, you experience immersion in the language environment and adapt to English norms much more easily. However, it is easier for some students to get acquainted with the theoretical material in order to apply it in practice.
3.2 The rules of intoning
1. Listen, as the native speakers of English say, and repeat them
If you want your intonation to be natural, you need to learn from those for whom this language is native. Where you can listen to the speech of native speakers:
In films and serials produced in the UK and the USA. On them you can learn not only intonation, but also the British or American accent, respectively. To tighten the knowledge of the language in general, use our tips from the article “How to learn English through films and serials.”
In English lessons using Skype with a native speaker. In this case, the teacher will help you get rid of the accent and “sound” correctly.
In colloquial English clubs or at a meeting of couchsurfers in your city. Offline communication will definitely give you pleasure and will be an excellent practical lesson for those who want to learn the intonation of the English language.
In audio podcasts. Sites with materials you can find in the article “5 + 1 sites with the most exciting podcasts in English”.
In audio books. Read more about this in our article “How to learn English in audio books + 7 cool resources”.
In various videos. In the article “5 free resources for learning English with the best video compilations” you will find a lot of useful and fascinating materials.
If your choice fell on the online sources of live English speech, we advise you to work with them as follows. Listen to the recording, trying to accurately grasp the intonation of the native speaker. Then turn on the video or audio again, pause after each replica and repeat it for the hero, imitating his pronunciation. So you not only learn the correct intonation, but also learn useful phrases and words.
2. Watch the training videos
3. Do special exercises and tests to understand English intonation
To learn something, you must first understand this. Therefore, we propose to begin with a test for understanding the intonation of English speakers here englishmedialab.com. And also practice speaking correctly on phon.ucl.ac.uk, where you will see examples of different phrases with audio recordings and tests to them.
4. Use special textbooks to develop the correct English intonation
There are special textbooks in which you will find many exercises for training intonation in English. For example, take the series of books “Intonation in Context” by Barbara Bradford, the textbook “Ship or Sheep” by the author Ann Baker or “Work on Your Accent” by the authors Helen Ashton and Sarah Shepherd. There you will find a lot of exercises to develop the right intonation.
5. Fix theoretical knowledge in practice
Each rule stated by us will be remembered when it will be repeatedly applied in practice. You can make your own examples to each of the rules, but you can take any text or dialogue in English and try to read it with the right intonation. But the best practice will be the conversation practice. The more you communicate in English, the better it is “feel”, the easier it will be for you to learn the correct English intonation. Try to speak English at least 2-3 times a week, then theoretical knowledge will become practical.
6. Record your speech
To detect errors in intonation, compare your speech with the voice of an English speaker. To do this, select a video, for example, a training video from Rachel or any other video where you can hear phrases with different intonations. Try to pronounce the phrases that sound in the video, and write them to the recorder. After that, compare the two entries and note whether you intone correctly in those or other cases. Find your mistakes and work on them.
7. Look for analogies with the Russian language
To simplify the task, you can try to transfer the experience of using intonation in Russian speech to intonation in English. After all, we are also talking different phrases with different intonations. It cannot be said that we are not emotional, it is simply Russian that in most cases assumes a calm, even speech. But still we raise the tone when we ask a question, but in an even tone assert something. Therefore, before you say something in English, think about what kind of expression you would say in Russian.