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STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION
Chapter V INTONATION
After considering the system of English segmental phonemes, the syllabic structure and the accentual structure of English words we are to focus on the topic of particular theoretical and practical interest, i.e. intonation.
In this chapter our general aims will be: first, to present a concise, simple, yet adequate definition of intonation; second, to describe the main structural components of the intonation pattern; third, to present methods for transcribing intonation, that is a suitable way of notation; and fourth, to explore the function of intonation in various textual- units, looking particularly at examples in which intonation resolves grammatical and lexical ambiguity.
Intonation is a language universal. There are no languages which are spoken as a monotone, i.e. without any change of prosodic parameters! But intonation functions in various languages in a different way.
What is the role intonation plays in the language?
The further our interests move towards some notion of communicative competence and away from the lesser ability to produce and understand grammatical sentences, the greater is the pressure one feels to take proper account of how intonation contributes to the communicative value of the act of speech.
We are beginning to realize more and more that engagement with intonation is not merely a "cosmetic" or "decorative" exercise, comparatively unimportant, but that in fact it leads one to a consideration of some quite fundamental aspects of the commu nicative process. Unfortunately many teachers have preferred to concentrate their attention upon the study of sounds with the result that the study of intonation is tended to lag behind. One reason for this state of affairs is that a very special skill is required in the recognition of intonation variations. This skill is more difficult to acquire than the ability to recognize strange sounds fortwo reasons. Intonation is used by native speakers even more unconsciously than are sounds, and — apart from an occasional random hint thrown out by a punctuation mark or by italics — no attempt is made in print to convey intonation, whereas even in a language so abominably spelt as English the orthography continually reminds the reader of the sounds he must produce. The second reason is that we have at our disposal a far more detailed analysis of the sounds of English than of its intonation.
It happened so because early phoneticians were preoccupied with segmental phonemes rather more than with intonation.
We would like to start with the description of intonation on the auditory and acoustic levels and then pass over to its linguistic function.
It is quite impossible to describe intonation in a word or two. Sometimes the ups and downs of pitch and loudness are compared to the waves of the ocean. "The surface of the ocean responds to the forces that act upon it in movements resembling the ups and downs of the human voice" (47, p. 19).
There is wide agreement among Soviet linguists that on perception level intonation is a complex, a whole, formed by significant variations of pitch, loudnessand tempo(i.e. the rate of speech and pausation) closely related. Some Soviet linguists regard speech timbre as the fourth component of intonation. As a matter of fact, up to now timbre has not been sufficiently investigated yet. Neither its material form nor its linguistic function have been thoroughly described. Though speech timbre definitely conveys certain shades of attitudinal or emotional meaning there is no good reason to consider it alongside with the three prosodic components of intonation, i.e. pitch, loudness and tempo.
Nowadays there is another term "prosody"which embraces the three prosodic components and substitutes the term "intonation". It is widely used in linguistic literature, it causes no misunderstanding and, consequently, it is more adequate. We feel strongly that this term would be more suitable for our book too, but, unfortunately, it has not been accepted in the teaching process yet.
We would like to point out that many foreign scholars have been anxious to restrict the formal definition of intonation to pitch movement alone, though occasionally allowing in variations of loudness as well (57; 66). We are firmly convinced that when the question of intonational meaning is raised it is clearly not possible to restrict the term "intonation" by the pitch parameters only because generally all the three prosodic parameters function as a whole though in many cases the priority of the pitch parameter is quite evident. Giving priority to pitch changes we are not going to adopt a narrow definition of intonation and simplify the formal description of it at the expense of the semantic one and will allow intonation a wider definition trying to do justice to the semantic value of all the three prosodic components.
It is necessary to point out here that on the acousticlevel pitch correlates with the fundamental frequency of the vibration of the vocal cords; loudness correlates with the amplitude of vibrations; tempo is a correlate of time during which a speech unit lasts.
Further on we shall describe intonation in the terms of auditorylevel which are more suitable for the aims of teaching. The acoustic level of prosodic parameters presents special interest for those carrying out experimental research work in the field of theoretical phonetics. With the developing of cybernetics and the constructing of teaching machines the importance of the acoustic aspect of intonation study will definitely grow.
We are going now to concentrate on the three prosodic components of intonation, that is pitch, loudness and tempo and on the way they are realized in speech.
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 patternwhich 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 groups1.Each intonation group may consist of one or more potential syntagms, e.g. the sentence "I think he is coming soon" has two potential syntagms: "I think" and "he is coming soon". 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 phrase1 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, cf.:
This bed was 'not 'slept xin. — .This bed \ was not 'slept xin.
An additional terminal tone on "this bed" expresses an emphasis on "this bed" in contrast to other beds. Another example:
~*Last .summer | we went to 'stay with my 'sister in the Crimea. || — ~*Last .summer Г we went to 'stay with my .sister | in the Crivmea. ||
The phrases above might be pronounced with either two or three intonation groups which obviously affects the meaning.
Now we shall dwell on each of the prosodic constituents of intonation and see how they actualize such language units as syntagms, sentences, syntactic wholes. Among the pitchparameters we shall concentrate on the three of them, i.e. the distinct variationsin the direction of pitch, pitch leveland pitch range.Though pitch changes are of primary linguistic significance they should be viewed together with the variations of loudness,the second component of intonation, since it is clearly not possible to separate pitch and loudness in creating the effect of accentuation. That is why our first task is to discuss the anatomy of pitch-and-stressstructure of the intonation pattern.
Not all stressed syllables are of equal importance. One of the syllables has the greater prominence than the others and forms the nucleus,or focal pointof an intonation pattern. Formally the nucleus may be described as a strongly stressed syllable which is generally the last strongly accented syllable of an intonation pattern and which marks a significant change of pitch direction, that is where 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 (66) the most important nuclear tones in English and the only ones we need to distinguish in teaching are:
Low Fall — vNo.
High Fall — vNo.
Low Rise — 'No.
High Rise — ,No.
Fall-Rise — vNo.
The meanings of the nuclear tones are difficult to specify in general terms. Roughly speaking 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 John? — He "^hasn't vcome yet. What's the time? — It's nearly'five o'clock.
A rising tone of any level and range on the contrary expresses "uncertainty", "incompleteness" or "dependence". A general question, for instance, has a rising tone, as the speaker is uncertain of the truth of what he is asking about, e.g.
I think I'll go now. — ~*Are you .ready?
Michael is coming to London. — Is he 'coming ,soon?
Parenthetical and subsidiary information in a statement is also often spoken with a rising tone, or a mid-level tone, because this information is incomplete, being dependent for its full understanding on the main assertion, e.g.
I'm not sure I can join you now. — If you > like $ we can go to the 'picnic xlater.
Encouraging or polite denials, commands, invitations, greetings, farewells, etc. are generally spoken with a rising tone.
What shall I do now? — ~*Do go ,on. Could you join us? — ~*Not ,now.
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; that is, it asserts something and at the same time suggests that there is something else to be said, e.g.
Do you like pop-music? — vSome,times. (but not in general)
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:
'Those who 'work in the voffices | 'ought to take 'plenty of ,exercise.
The falling-rising tone, as its name suggests, 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 both take place on one syllable — the nuclear syllable. Otherwise the rise occurs in the remainder of the tone unit, cf.:
Do you agree with him? — vYes.
What can I do to mend matters? — You could ap\ologize ,to her.
Where the Rise of the Fall-Rise extends to a stressed syllable after the nucleus we signal the falling-rising tone by placing the fall on the nucleus and a rise on the later stressed syllable. This will make it easier for you and your pupils to follow the intonation contour in the text.
You may know that in English there is often clear evidence of an intonation-group boundary, but no audible nuclear tone movement preceding. In such a circumstance two courses are open: either one may classify the phenomenon as a further kind of head or one may consider it to be the level nuclear tone. The weight of evidence seems to force the second solution, for the following reasons:
1. The final level tone is always more prominent than the others, e.g.
I m afraid I can't manage it. — In view of 'all the > circumstances | why not 'try axgain?
Also the syllable on which it occurs is lengthened substantially, and there is a clear rhythmic break between what precedes and what follows.
2. This tone nearly always occurs on the last lexical item (which is not obligatory in spontaneous speech) before a phonetic boundary and this is distributionally similar to a nuclear tone.
1. In subordinate structures this tone may be replaced by a rising-type tone.
2. In non-subordinate structures this tone has a particular range of meaning (boredom, sarcasm, etc.) which is very similar in force to other nuclear semantic functions.
Low-Level toneis very characteristic of reading poetry. Though occasionally heard in reading Mid-Level toneis particularly common in spontaneous speech functionally replacing the rising tone. That is why it should be by no means ignored in teaching.
There are two more nuclear tones in English: Rise-Fall and Rise-Fall-Rise. But adding refinement to speech they are not absolutely essential tones for the foreign learner to acquire; and as they complicate the learning of the tones it is advisable not to teach them at any rate until the student is well advanced in his mastery of intonation. Rise-Fall can always be replaced by High Fall and Rise-Fall-Rise by Fall-Rise without making nonsense of the utterance in the way in which a foreign or other unsuitable intonation does.
The tone of a nucleus determines the pitch of the rest of the intonation pattern following it which is called the tail,as you probably remember. Thus after a falling tone, the rest of the intonation pattern is at a low pitch. After a rising tone the rest of the intonation pattern moves in an upward pitch direction, cf.:
vNo, Mary. — .Well, Mary.
The nucleus and the tail form what is called terminal tone.
As you know, we hope, the two other sections of the intonation pattern are the headand the pre-headwhich form the pre-nuclear part of the intonation pattern and, like the tail, they may be looked upon as optional elements, e.g.
""'Lake .District | is one of the loveliest 'parts of,Britain.
The pre-nuclear part can take a variety of pitch patterns. Variation within the pre-nucleus does not usually affect the grammatical meaning of the utterance, though it often conveys meanings associated with attitude or phonetic styles. There are three common types of pre-nucleus: a descending type in which the pitch gradually descends (often in "steps") to the nucleus; an ascending type in which the syllables form an ascending sequence and a level type when all the syllables stay more or less on the same level:
As the examples show, the different types of pre-nucleus do not affect the grammatical meaning of the sentence but they can convey something of the speaker's attitude.
Generalizing we may say that minimally an intonation pattern consists of one syllable, which is Its nucleus, and in this syllable there is a melodical glide of a particular sound. Maximally it consists of three other segments: the head, the pre-head and the tail.
Two more pitch parameters which can considerably modify the pitch contour of the pitch-and-stress structure are pitch ranges and pitch levelsof the whole intonation pattern or of each of its sections.
Variations in pitch range occur within the normal range of the human voice, i.e. within its upper and lower limits. For pedagogical expediency three pitch ranges are generally distinguished: normal, wide, narrow:
The pitch range of a whole intonation unitjs in fact the interval between the highest-pitched and the lowest-pitched syllables. 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 manifesting changes in meaning, cf.: the High Head combined with the Low Fall, the High Fall, the Low Rise, the High Rise, the Fall-Rise in the phrase "Not at all!"
(reserved, calm) (surprised, concerned)
"Not at,all. -»Not at'all. -»Notatvall.
(encouraging, (questioning) (intensely encouraging,
It should be noted that the more the height of the pitch contrasts within the intonation pattern the more emphatic the intonation group sounds, cf.:
The number of possible combinations is more than a hundred but not all of them ate equally important. Some of them do not differ much in meaning, others are very rarely used. That is why in teaching it is necessary to deal only with a very limited number of intonation patterns, which are the result of a careful choice.
The tempoof speech is the third component of intonation. The term "tempo" implies the rate of the utterance and pausation.
The rate of speech can be normal, slowand 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 thinks him to be a common labouring boy," said Betty with a sad smile.
The word combination "...a common labouring boy" expresses the main idea of the phrase and is the slowest part of the utterance; "My mother thinks him to be" is pronounced at normal speed; the author's words "said Betty with a sad smile" are pronounced very quickly to underline their secondary importance for the utterance.
Any stretch of speech can be split into smaller portions, i.e. phonetic wholes', phrases, intonation groups by means of pauses. By "pause" here we mean a complete stop of phonation. For teaching expediency it is sufficient to distinguish the following three kinds of pauses:
5. Short pauses which may be used to separate intonation
6. Longer pauses which normally manifest the end of the
7. Very long pauses, which are approximately twice as long
Functionally, there may be distinguished syntactic, emphaticand hesitationpauses.
Syntactic pauses separate phonopassages, phrases, intonation groups.
Emphatic pauses serve to make especially prominent certain parts of the utterance e.g.
She is the most \ charming girl I've ever seen.
Hesitation pauses are mainly used in spontaneous speech to gain some time to think over what to say next. They may be silent or filled, e.g.
She is rather a ... good student.
— Where does she live? — Um, not very far from here.
It is well to point out here that our ear can also perceive a pause when there is no stop of phonation at all. It may happen because a stop of phonation is not the only factor indicating an intonation unit boundary. The first and the main factor is a per-ceivable pitch change, either stepping down or stepping up, depending on the direction of nuclear tone movement. The other criterion is the presence of junctural features at the end of each intonation group. This usually takes the form of a pause but there are frequently accompanying segmental phonetic modifications (variations in tempo, aspiration etc.) which reinforce this. So the intonation unit boundary is not necessarily indicated by a complete stop of phonation.
The changes of pitch, loudness and tempo are not haphazard variations. The rules of change are highly organized. No matter how variable the individual variations of these prosodic components are they tend to become formalized or standardized, so that all speakers of the language use them in similar ways under similar circumstances. These abstracted characteristics of intonation structures may be called intonation patterns which form the prosodic system of English.
Some intonation patterns may be completely colourless in meaning: they give to the listener no implication of the speaker's . attitude or feeling. They serve a mechanical function — they provide a mold into which all sentences may be poured so that they achieve utterance. Such intonation patterns represent the intonational minimum of speech and are very helpful for beginners in language learning.
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