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Phonetics and Phonology

Part 3
Functions of Intonation
Intonation makes it easier for a
listener to understand what a
speaker is trying to convey.
4 Different Functions
1. Attitudinal function intonation enables us to
express emotions and attitudes as we speak,
adding a special kind of meaning to spoken
2. Accentual function intonation works to focus
attention on a particular lexical item or syllable.
3. Grammatical function to recognise the
grammar and syntactic structure of what is
being said by using the information contained in
the intonation.
4. Discourse function intonation signals to the
listener what is new/given information; conveys
to the listener what kind of response is
The attitudinal function of intonation
Intonation is used to convey our feelings and
The same sentence can be said in different
ways, which might be labelled angry,
happy, grateful, bored, and so on.
A major factor in this is the tone used.
Function Example
Finality, That is the end of the \news
definiteness Im absolutely \certain
Stop \talking
Rise (nearer to grammatical)
Function Example
General Can you /help me
questions Is it /over
Listing /Red /brown /yellow or \blue
More to I phoned them right a/way (and
follow they agreed to come)
You must write it a/gain (and this
time, get it right)
Encouraging It wont /hurt
Function Example
Uncertainty, You may be right
doubt Its possible
Requesting Can I buy it
Will you lend it to me
Function Example
Surprise, You were first
being All of them
Why do we learn intonation?
The form of intonation is different in different
Learning the appropriate intonation to use is
to avoid learners from giving offence
unintentionally, which have caused
unnecessary anxiety to them.
The notion of
expressing an emotion or attitude
First, an emotion may be expressed
involuntarily or voluntarily (e.g. happy).
Second, an attitude that is expressed could be
an attitude towards the listener (e.g. friendly),
towards what is being said (e.g.
sceptical/dubious), or towards some external
event or situation (e.g. regretful,
Lets try
Try saying this in the following ways and to
whom (elders, peers, and younger ones).
I want to buy a new smart phone
The outcome
You will have used variations in loudness and
speed, almost certainly different voice
qualities for different attitudes.
You may have used your pitch range in
different ways: narrow pitch range or wide
pitch range, different keys: high key, mid key,
or low key.
You will have used different facial expressions,
gestures, and body movements.
These components of intonation are found as
elements in sequences of other such elements
occurring one after another.
Pre-heads, heads, tonic syllables and tails (with
their pitch possibilities);
Tone-unit boundaries.
These have all been introduced previously.
These components are characteristics of
speech which are constantly present and
observable while speech is going on:
Width of pitch range;
Voice quality.
Facial expressions, gestures, and body
The term body language is used for such
activity for people who study human
These paralinguistic effects are obviously
relevant to the act of speaking.
However, not in the scope of this course or
components of intonation.
Expressing attitudes
The attitudinal use of intonation is something
that is best acquired through talking with and
listening to English speakers.
To study the attitudinal function it to train
learners to be more aware of and sensitive to
the way English speakers use intonation.
The accentual function of intonation
The placement of stress is something that is
determined by intonation, independent of and
prior to the choice of intonation
The placement of tonic stress is a function
(the accentual function) of intonation.
The location of the tonic syllable is of
considerable linguistic importance.
The most common position for this is on the
last lexical word (e.g. noun, adjective, verb,
adverb) of tone unit.
The placement of the tonic syllable indicates the
focus of the information.
Normal placement (i and iii) vs. Contrastive (ii
and iv):
i. I want to know where hes \travelling to
ii. I want to know where hes travelling \to
iii. She was wearing a red \dress
iv. She was wearing a \red dress
Non-emphatic (i and iii) vs. Emphatic (ii and iv)
i. It was very \boring
ii. It was \very boring
iii. You mustnt talk so \loudly
iv. You \mustnt talk so loudly
I have plans to \leave (I am planning to leave)
I have \plans to leave
(I have some plans/diagrams/drawings that I
have to leave)
A result of the last part of the tone-unit being
already given
Heres that \book you asked me to bring
(the fact that you asked me to bring it is not new)
Ive got to take the \dog for a walk
(for a walk is by far the most probable thing to
follow Ive got to take the dog; if the sentence
ended with to the vet the tonic syllable would
probably be vet)
The grammatical function of
Ambiguity, which can only be removed by
using differences of intonation. E.g.
Those who sold quickly | made a \profit
Those who sold quickly made a \profit
First, a profit was made by those who sold quickly.
Second, a profit was quickly made by those who
Minimal Pairs
Minimal pairs, which can be made clear the
difference between restrictive and non-
restrictive, by different intonation. E.g.
The Conservatives who like the proposal | are
The Conservatives | who like the proposal | are
First, it implies that only some Conservatives like the
Second, it implies that all the Conservatives like it.
Changing statement into a question
The use of a rising tone with questions,
especially changing a statement into a
question simply by changing the tone from
falling to rising, which is used by itself in the
variety of English.
Statement: The \price is going up
(Why do you want to buy it now?)
Question: The /price is going up
Question that does not start with a wh-word
has a rising tone.
Did you park the /car
A fall is also possible in the example above.
Question that begins with wh-question
words has a falling tone
Where did you park the \car
The fall above is certainly not obligatory and a
rise is quite often heard.
A case of a difference in meaning being due to the
difference between falling and rising tone.
i. They are coming on \Tuesday | \arent they
ii. They are coming on \Tuesday | /arent they
The question-tag when has a falling tone, (i) the
implication is said to be that the speaker is
comparatively certain that the information is correct,
and simply expects the listener to provide
While the rising tone (ii) is said to indicate a lesser
degree of certainly, so that the question-tag
functions more like a request for information.
The discourse function of intonation
If we consider how intonation may be studied
in relation to discourse, two main areas
The use of intonation to focus the listeners
attention on aspects of the message that are most
The regulation of conversational behaviour
Examples to be considered...
A: Have you got any free time this morning?
B: I might have later on if that meetings off.
A: They were talking about putting it later.
B: You cant be sure.

Each sentence above could be studied in isolation

and be analysed in terms of grammatical
construction, lexical content etc.
They contain several references that presuppose
shared knowledge.
Attention focusing
The placing of tonic stress on the appropriate
syllable of one particular word in the tone-
unit, in some sense the most important, as
She went to \Scotland
The tone-unit is being used to present new
information or to refer to information which is
felt to be already possessed by speaker and
Since the last time we met | when we had that
huge dinner | Ive been on a \diet
Writers on discourse intonation have
proposed that
The falling tone indicates new information
The rising, including falling-rising tones indicate
shared or given information.
Intonation subordination: a particular tone-
unit is of comparatively low importance and
as a result give correspondingly greater
importance of adjacent tone-units
i. As I expect youve \heard | theyre only
admitting e\mergency cases
ii. The Japanese | for some reason or /other
| drive on the \left | like \us
The first tone-unit of (i) and the second and
fourth tone-units of (ii) might be treated as
intonationally subordinate.
The prosodic characteristics marking this are
a) A drop to a lower part of the pitch range (low
b) Increased speed;
c) Narrower range of pitch; and
d) Reduced loudness, relative to the non-
subordinate tone-unit(s).
Information content
The more predictable a words occurrence is in
a given context, the lower is its information
Tonic stress will tend to be placed on words
with high information content.
Ive got to take the \dog for a walk
Ive got to take the dog to the \vet
The word vet is less predictable (has a higher
information content) than walk.
Importance or information?
It is difficult to explain tonic placement in
terms of importance or information.
Your coats on fire.
The wings breaking up.
The radios gone wrong.
Your uncles died.
Should the tonic stress be on the subject noun
or the last lexical word in each of the
sentences an unsolved mystery...
The regulation of
conversational behaviour
Use of various prosodic components to indicate
Difference between falling and rising intonation
on question-tags to indicate to the listener what
sort of response is expected.
Intonation, in conjunction with body language,
is used for similar purposes in speech, as well as
for establishing or confirming the status of the
participants in a conversation.