Tuesday, April 30, 2013


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,[6] 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.