Phonetics - Unit Four - Lesson No. 24


Intonation refers to the structured variation in pitch which is not determined by lexical distinction (Carlos Gussenhoven, in The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology 2007: 253).

The basic unit of speech melody is intonation group, which is a complete pattern of intonation. Intonation groups often correspond to a grammatical clause, indicated by a single bar |; a double bar || can be used to indicate the end of a sentence. For instance,

I'd obviously broken my leg| so I need to see a doctor.||

Intonation in English has four patterns: falls, rises, fall-rise and rise-fall. Falls have been found to be far the commonest type of nuclear tone. Research has shown that falling patterns are accounted for roughly 70 per cent of all types used in conversation. We symbolize the high fall thus: (ˋ). A high fall is a swoop down from high to low:
High-fall: ˋGreen
A low fall (ˎ) has much less pitch movement.

Rising patterns are less much common than falling ones. The most frequent rise has a pitch movement from low to mid, and is symbolized thus (ˏ). If there are syllable following the nucleus, the rise in pitch will be spread over all of them. i.e. following the pitch pattern established by it. The less common high rise begins mid and rises to high.

Fall-rise and rise-fall intonations are called broken tones. The full-rise nucleus, symbolized (˅), moves from high to low to mid. Syllables after the nucleus continue the rise:
Fall-rise: ˅Green

As for the rise-fall, it involves a pitch movement from mid to high to low, and is symbolized (˄). Syllables after the nucleus continue low. It is at least common of the nuclear tones mentioned here and indeed is absent from some varieties of English:
Rise-fall: ˄Green

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