English Intonation and its Prominent Role in Teaching Communication

Author Topic: English Intonation and its Prominent Role in Teaching Communication  (Read 232 times)

Offline Umme Atia Siddiqua

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 274
  • Test
    • View Profile

English Intonation and its Prominent Role in Teaching Communication
Lucia S Valls   
Lucia S Valls

 
speaker and listener’s shared knowledge becomes cumulative as they speak. In 1981, Brazil et. al. proposed the notion of common ground.
“Common ground is intended to encompass the knowledge speakers (think they) share about the world, about each other experiences, attitudes and emotions. Common ground is not restricted to shared experience of a particular linguistic interaction up to the moment of utterance; rather, it is a product
of the interacting biographies of the participants.”
 (Brazil et. al. 1981) According to this notion, speaker and listener share an interactional history that will define their intonational choices during their interactions as a result of the knowledge they both share. At the moment of interaction, we may propose that
speaker and listener’s knowledge can be represented as follows.
 Common ground refers to the assumptions speakers make about their listeners according to the knowledge shared by them at the time and place of their interaction. This knowledge is defined by the situational and physical contexts and cultural background shared by the participants. As a consequence, the context is crucial when dealing with intonation due to the fact that this aspect of the language is determined by speakers' assumptions, common ground as well as by the context in which interaction occurs. 2.1. The Main Components of Intonation: Tonality, Tonicity and Tone It is relevant to point out that intonation is made up of basically three components. The first one is referred to as Tonality. It is defined as the distribution into tone groups-the number and location of the tone group boundaries. This aspect of intonation describes the division of speech into meaningful segments we will call tone units. Each COMMON GROUND SPEAKER LISTENER


 
tone unit has a particular intonation construction with a purpose attached to it by a speaker. The second component is called
Tonicity, which is connected to the syllables within a word speakers choose to highlight over others, according to the meaning or message they intend to convey. Tonicity is defined as the placing of the tonic syllable-the location in each tone group of the pre-tonic (prominent syllables) and tonic sections (Tonic syllable).
 According to Brazil et. al. (1981), “Prominence is a property associated with a word by virtue of its function as a constituent of a tone unit. Making any word prominent constitutes a meaningful choice.”
 
Tone is the pitch movement of the utterance. It is relevant to highlight that there is only one tone per tone unit. English has five basic tones proposed by Brazil et. al. (1981):

 Fall or Proclaiming tone:
p
 

 Rise-fall or Proclaiming plus (+) tone:
 p+
 

 Rise or Referring plus (+) tone:
r+
 

 Fall-rise of Referring tone:
r
 

 Level or 0 tone:
0
 These three components of intonation work together to convey meaning. Speakers break their speech into pieces called tone units. In each tone unit, there are syllables which are more noticeable than others. These are called prominent syllables. The last prominent syllable in each tone unit is called tonic syllable, in which a movement in pitch occurs. Each tonic syllable signals the beginning of a tone which can be of the five types listed above. In order to see this intonation system in action, let us analyse some utterances by applying changes to its intonation pattern to see that we may mean different things if we highlight some words and
not others. In order to show intonation, Brazil’s notation
will be adopted for the purposes of this paper. Thus, division into tone units will be shown with double slashes (//), prominent syllables will be CApitalised and the tonic syllable will be underLINED.

 
If we take the following utterance in isolation, it is hard to predict its intonation pattern. However, assuming everything is new information we may propose the following intonation pattern. (1) //
p
 the QUEEN of HEARTS // Now, adding context to this same utterance, we may have three possible variations. (2) Q: What card did you play? R: //
p
 the QUEEN of HEARTS // (3) Q: What heart did you play? R: //
p
 the QUEEN of hearts // (4) Q: What queen did you play? R: //
p
 the queen of HEARTS // In these examples, intonation changes have to do with prominence. But there are other aspects of a tone unit that may change for the same utterance to mean different things. (5) // i shall GO to COllege // when i FInish SCHOOL // (6) Q: What will you do in the future? R: //
 p
 i shall GO to COllege //
p
 when i FInish SCHOOL // (7) Q: What will you do when you finish school? R: //
 p
 i shall GO to COllege //
r
 when i FInish SCHOOL // (8) Q: When will you go to college? R: //
 r
 i shall GO to COllege //
p
 when i FInish SCHOOL // As it can be observed in examples (7) and (8), changes occur in tone to show the different meanings implied in each utterance. English tones are argued to carry meaning by themselves. The five tones listed earlier are characterised as having the following functions.


 
The
proclaiming tone
 is used in utterances that inform or
“proclaim” new
information in both declarative and interrogative form. (9) Q: //
p
WHAT HAPpened ? // R: //
p
 i CAME across PEter this morning //
1
 The
proclaiming plus tone
 is used to proclaim something that can also be said to be new information but with the extra intention of expressing surprise. (10) R: //
p
 P
Eter’s always in a GOOD
MOOD //
p+
 but toDAY he was CRYing // The
referring
 and
referring plus
 
tones
 are both used to express the same thing: that the tone unit refers to a part of the message both speaker and listener already know about. The referring tone is more specifically used in utterances that communicate messages already present in the common ground; it is used to express old information. It is employed when giving vague answers, agreeing partially, introducing a topic and expressing uncertainty. The
referring plus
 
tone
 is chosen by speakers to reactivate previously shared knowledge (reactivation of the common ground) as well as to take a dominant position in the conversation and to give instructions and advice. Both referring tones are used in yes-no questions meaning to check whether something is already in the common ground or not. (11) //
r
in the CUPboard //
p
 
you’ll FIND the
SUgar // (old information: in the cupboard where it always is) (12) Q: //
p
HOW did the INterview go? // R: //
p
 ALL RIGHT //
 r
 i THINK // (uncertainty) (13) Q: // r
 
do you LIKE my new SWEAter? // (checking) R: //
r
 
i THINK it’s
NICE //
 p
 but i prefer the GREEN one // (parcial agreement)
1
 Examples 1 to 9 have been adapted from Brazil, D. 1997 and Brazil, D., Coulthard, M. and Johns, C. 1981.

 
(14) //
r+
 GO along this ROAD //
r+
 on the LEFT //
p
 TURN RIGHT // (giving instructions) (15) //
r
 BOdy language //
p
 is a VEry COMplex pheNOmenon // (introducing a topic) Finally, the level or
0 tone
 is used for incomplete utterances which show that speakers are trying to find the right words to continue the conversation. It carries the idea of incompletion. (15) //
r
 BOdy language //
p
 is a VEry COMplex pheNOmenon //
0
 WELL //
0
 i MEAN //
r+
we SHOULD TAKE it //
p
 VEry SEriously //(thinking what to say next) As we have seen, English intonation has various features that help speakers of a language convey and decode meanings that go beyond the words spoken. For this reason, intonation should be one of the features of any language that should be taught and practised in the TEFL class. In this respect, various teaching materials have been designed to be used in the classroom to teach this feature of the language. However, these materials can be argued to fail to address the needs of the majority of foreign English language students: young learners and adolescents. We have looked at the communicative choices of tones. The primary choice is between referring and proclaiming and then, within these two categories, the marked versions of these (r+ and p+). 2.2. Key Apart from the three main components of intonation aforementioned, each speaker of a language has a characteristic pitch range in which variations occur. It is believed that speakers distinguish between three pitch levels within their characteristic pitch range, and every tone unit is uttered in one of these three levels or keys.
INTONATION
 
R P
r
 tone
r+
 tone
 p
 tone
 p+
 tone
0
 tone

 
 Key is determined by the pitch level of the first prominent syllable of a tone unit compared to the prominence of the preceding tone unit. This means that a tone unit is in a higher or lower key in relation to the tone unit uttered before. If a tone unit is in a mid key, this means that its preceding unit and the one in question are at the same pitch level. Therefore, three keys can be identified, each of which signals a unique communicative intention when used.
High key
 is said to be contrastive in the sense that tone units in a high key contain information which contrasts with what speaker and/or hearer might expect. This type of key is also used to express strong agreement between speakers. (16) Q: //
p
 i think the FILM was QUITE GOOD //
 r
 did you LIKE the film ? // R: //
p
it was
HORRible! //
 (contrary to expectation) (17) Q: //
p
 i think the FILM was VEry GOOD // R: //
p
 it was
FANTAStic
 // (strong agreement)
Mid key
 is said to have an additive function, which is neither contrastive nor emphatic. This means that the information given by the tone unit is additional to what has been said before.
Low key
 is equative. This means that the information in the tone unit has no new impact on what has been said before. Low key can be said to be used in asides or comments. (18) //
p
 the FILM was VEry GOOD //
p
 it was
EXCelllent, in fact
 // 2.3. Rhythm Apart from the previously described features of the English spoken language,
rhythm shouldn’t be left aside.
 English and German are examples of stress-timed languages, while Spanish and Japanese are syllable-timed. A visual way of showing the difference between the two types of rhythm is the following.

RELATED PAPERS
The Use of Information Tones in Obama's Speech: A Phono-Pragmatic Analysis
By Arab World English Journal (AWEJ)
The creation of a prosodically transcribed intercultural corpus: The Hong Kong Corpus of Spo…
By Martin Corpus
Intonation features of Singapore English
By Christine Goh
DISCOURSE INTONATION VS GRAMMATICAL INTONATION: PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS…
By Jabreel Asghar
[Adrian_Underhill]_Sound_Foundations_Learning_and Teaching Pronunciation.pdf
By Tira Nur Fitria