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The Components of Intonation

The Components of Intonation - раздел Лингвистика, Методическое пособие по практической фонетике As Has Been Mentioned Above, The Sentence Possesses Definite Phonetic Feature...

As has been mentioned above, the sentence possesses definite phonetic features. Each feature performs a definite task, and all of them work simultaneously. Thus,

(a) Sentences are usually separated from each other by pauses. If necessary, the sentence is subdivided into shorter word – groups according to sense; these are called sense – groups or syntagms.

(b) The pitch of the voice does not stay on the same level while the sentence (or the sense – group ) is pronounced; it fluctuates, rising and falling on the vowels and voiced consonants. These falls and rises are not chaotic, but form definite patterns, typical of English. The fluctuations of the voice – pitch are called speech melody

(c) The word that is most important for the meaning of the sentence, i.e. the word acting as its semantic centre, is made prominent by stress and special moving tone; this special tone is the result of a perceptible change in the pitch, which either falls, or rises, or changes its movement first in one direction, then in another (fall – rise or rise - fall). The movement is initiated on the stressed syllable of the most important word of the sentence (or sense - group).

(d) Other words, also essential for the meaning, are stressed, but the pitch of these words remains unchanged.

(e) Form words, performing grammatical functions (such as articles, prepositions, auxiliary, modal, and link verbs) are usually left unstressed; they are mostly pronounced in their reduced (weak) forms.

(f) Connected English speech comes as a series of closely – knit groups of words, each group containing only one stressed syllable. The stressed syllables occur at approximately equal intervals of time, e.g. –

It isn't e xactly what I want.

The result of this subtle interrelationship of stress and time is a peculiar rhythm resembling a drum – beat. This rhythm is not easy for a foreigner to acquire, but its absence often make his speech barely intelligible.

(g) The rate of speech is not constant, but is made to suit the semantic weight of each sentence or sense – group of the utterance. For example, utterance in direct speech are usually pronounced slower than those that are said parenthetically, and stressed element of a sentence are pronounced slower than the unstressed ones.

(h) The timbre of the voice changes in accordance with the emotions experience by the speaker.

All the phonetic features of the sentence enumerated above (speech melody, sentence stress, tempo, rhythm, pauses and timbre) form a complex unity, called intonation.

The most important components of intonation from the linguistic point of view are: speech melody, sentence – stress and rhythm.

It should be borne in mind that all the components of intonation are closely connected; none of them can be separated in actual speech. This can be done, however, for the sake of analysis which is essential as a preliminary stage in mastering intonation.

Speech melody and sentence stress are the most important components of intonation, because it is chiefly thanks to them that the meaning of a sentence can be expressed. Their close interconnection manifests itself, among other things, also in that the last stressed word in a sense – group or sentence contains the significant change in pitch (i.e. one which determines the semantic importance of the sense – group or the communicative type of the sentence: a fall, a rise, etc.), e.g.

I am studying English.

The sentence is pronounced with this particular intonation when the speaker considers the name of the language he is studying to be the most important piece of intonation and wants to communicate it, either on his own initiative or in answer to the question What language are you studying? The most important piece of information given in this sentence (the name of the language being studied) may also conveyed by slightly different sentence: I am studying the English language.

In this case the last stressed word is also English, and a significant change of pitch (a fall) takes place within that word.

The word language that follows the last stressed word is pronounced without any sentence – stress or with very weak stress and on a low pitch level.

The last sentence – stress may be combined not only with a fall, but also with another significant change in pitch – with a rise, for example, e.g. Are you going home? Are you studying the English language? (or some other language?)

The most important piece of information (something new to the listener) conveyed in the sentence (or sense - group) is called its communicative centre. It may be expressed by a single word or a number of words. In the latter case it is usually the last word in the word – group that bears the last full stress in an English and Russian sentence or sense – group. This word is called the accentual nucleus

of the communicative centre, and it carries the terminal tone. To illustrate this let us compare the following:

What language are you studying Какой язык вы изучаете

at the Institute? в институте?

We're studying English. or Мы изучаем английский.

We're studying the English language. Мы изучаем английский язык.

The most important piece of information asked for in these questions and given the answers is expressed by the word English and английский.

They form the communicative centre in the answers and bear the last sentence – stress and the terminal tone.

Now let us ask and answer the following questions:

What languages are you studying Какие языки вы изучаете

at the Institute? в институте?

We're studying English and French. Мы изучаем английский и французский

This time the communicative centre of the answer is expressed by a word – group containing three words (English and French - английский французский) and the accentual nucleus of the communicative centre is the last word French – французский which bears the last sentence – stress and the terminal tone.

In the answer to the following question the communicative centre consists of the word the English language and its accentual nucleus is expressed by the last word language:

What's the main subject you're studying at the Institute?

It's the English language.

Straightforward statements with the same communicative centres and the same accentual structure as those described above would be made not only in answer to question, but, of course, on the speaker's own initiative, as well, when he wants to communicate the same pieces of information as something new to the listener, e.g.

You know at our Institute we're studying English (or …we're studying English and French).

All the above examples show that communicatively most important is the last full stress in a sentence or sense – group, because it indicated either a one – word communicative centre or the nucleus of a word – group communicative centre in the sentence or sense – group.

The communicative centre may occupy any place in a sentence. Compare the answers to the following questions.

When do your friends go to the sea – side?

Cf. My friends go to the sea – side every summer.

(an answer to a "when" - question)

My friends go to the sea – side every summer.

(an answer to a "where " - question)

My friends go to the sea – side every summer.

(an answer to a "who" - question)

My friends go to the sea – side every summer.

(An answer to a "whose" - question)

Practical Tasks:




Sound [t]

A tutor who tooted the flute

Tried to tutor two tooters to toot

Said the two to the tutor "Is it harder

To toot or to tutor two tooters to toot.



2)Ship or Sheep U – 26

3) Listening II U – 4a


Sound [d]

Dennie's daughter Diana doesn't like darning.



5) Ship or Sheep U – 27

6) Listening II U – 4b

7) Pronunciation Tasks U – 11 (p. 22)


Sound [k]

Take care not to make many mistakes when you bake those cakes.



9) Ship or Sheep U – 28

10) Listening II U – 5a

11) Transcribe and intone the text suggested by the teacher.



1) Antipova.E. English Intonation.

2) Трахтеров В.А. Практический курс фонетики английского языка, М., 1976.

3) Ivanova. English Intonation.


UNIT 28 – 30


Main Theoretical Concepts:

No sentence can exist without a definite melodic contour. The monosyllabic word may be pronounced with the following six main tones.

1. The low fall stands in the middle of the voice range and gradually descends to a very low pitch. ________



2. The low rise starts at a very low pitch and gradually ascends to the middle of the voice range. _________



3. The high fall starts at a high pitch and then falls to a very low pitch. _______



4. The high rise starts in the middle of the voice range and then rises to a very high pitch. _________



5. The fall – rise starts with a fall similar to that of the high fall which is immediately followed by a low rise. _________



6. The rise – fall starts in the middle of the voice range, rises to a very high pitch and then falls to a very low pitch. _________



– Конец работы –

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Методическое пособие по практической фонетике

Методическое пособие по практической фонетике составлено с целью формирования у студентов необходимых навыков и умений обучения правильной... Пособие предназначено для студентов курса факультета лингвистики и перевода...

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