Intonation is change of spoken pitch ( rising or falling ) that is used for a range of functions such as:
- · indicating the attitudes and emotions of the speaker,
- · signalling the difference between statement and question
- · signalling the difference between different types of question,
- · focussing attention on important elements of the spoken message
- · helping to regulate conversational interaction.
Attitudinal function (for expressing emotions and attitudes)
example: a fall from a high pitch on the 'mor' syllable of "good morning" suggests more excitement than a fall from a low pitch
Grammatical function (to identify grammatical structure)
example: it is claimed that in English a falling pitch movement is associated with statements, but a rising pitch turns a statement into a yes–no question, as in He's going ↗home?. This use of intonation is more typical of American English than of British.
Focusing (to show what information in the utterance is new and what is already known)
example: in English I saw a ↘man in the garden answers "Whom did you see?" or "What happened?", while I ↘saw a man in the garden answers "Did you hear a man in the garden?"
Discourse function (to show how clauses and sentences go together in spoken discourse)
example: subordinate clauses often have lower pitch, faster tempo and narrower pitch range than their main clause, as in the case of the material in brackets in "The Red Planet [as it's known] is fourth from the sun"
Psychological function (to organize speech into units that are easy to perceive, memorize and perform)
example: the utterance "You can have it in red blue green yellow or ↘black" is more difficult to understand and remember than the same utterance divided into tone units as in "You can have it in ↗red | ↗blue | ↗green | ↗yellow | or ↘black"
Indexical function (to act as a marker of personal or social identity)
example: group membership can be indicated by the use of intonation patterns adopted specifically by that group, such as street vendors or preachers. The so-called high rising terminal, where a statement ends with a high rising pitch movement, is said to be typical of younger speakers of English, and possibly to be more widely found among young female speakers.