©Ahmad Muzakkir bin Mohamad/Aizuddin bin Rojalai PISMP TESL 3 Semester 2

Question 4
Two major aspects of suprasegmental phonology are stress and intonation.
How can the knowledge of these features help a learner to improve his/her
speech?
The knowledge of suprasegmental features is very important in
communication. Some of the features are stress and intonation. Stress means the
way you give a special attention to a part of word in three basic aspects that are
louder, longer and at the higher pitch. Meanwhile, the definition of intonation,
according to (Underhill, 2005), is the pattern of pitch change over an utterance or
series of utterance. That means, intonation is the sound changes produced by the
rise and fall of voice when we are speaking, especially when it has important
meaning behind it. English speakers use word stress and intonation to communicate
rapidly and accurately, even in difficult condition for instance, if you do not hear a
word clearly, you can still understand the word because of the position of stress and
intonation. Therefore, how can these suprasegmental features help a learner to
improve his or her speech?
First and foremost, by knowing about the stress and intonation, it enables the
learner to express his or her emotion during speech delivery. As we all know,
stress and intonation are very important for the learner as it helps the listener to
interpret the message. In delivering speech, in order to express our emotion, we
need to have various skills in order to attract listener’s attention. For example, fall
tone, rise tone, listing and fall-rise tone. Each of these tones is functionally distinct,
that is they convey different attitudes, intentions and meanings to the listener, as it
has been stated above. Thus, for the fall tone, it is regarded as quite neutral and it
conveys a certain sense of finality, for example, I strongly agree! Meanwhile, the rise
tone conveys an impression or general questions. For instance, Can you do me a
favour? Plus, the fall-rise tone is normally to convey the feelings of approval and
disapproval and the example of the sentence is, I don’t think that he would agree.
Based on the above explanation, we could see that stress and intonation really help
the listeners to differentiate the meaning of the sentence uttered by a speaker and at
the same time can improve the speaker’s speech.

©Ahmad Muzakkir bin Mohamad/Aizuddin bin Rojalai PISMP TESL 3 Semester 2

On the other hand, the stress and intonation knowledge also helps a learner
to improve his or her speech by knowing on how to differentiate the word
classes of a word either it is a noun, verb or adjective. English does not have a
fixed stress. This is because, it can be found either at the beginning, middle and final
syllable. For example, the word ‘survey’ can be either a verb or a noun. The example
of the first sentence is, I want to surVEY all TESL 3 students in order to know more
about the class problems. The second example is, This SURvey shows that the
students are enjoying the lesson today. In the first sentence, ‘survey’ is a verb and
the stress is on the second syllable while the second sentence stresses on the
second syllable since it is a noun. Therefore, when a leaner is delivering a speech,
they already know how to differentiate between the words classes according to the
stress and intonation. It makes the listeners to understand easily of what he or she
had said.
Besides that, the other way on how the knowledge of stress and intonation
helps a learner to improve his or her speech is by the discourse function and
intonation. In other words, it conveys the given new information, or provides
information for turn taking. Example of the sentence is, It’s raining. Isn’t it? Based on
this sentence, the speaker wants to tell another person that it is raining by using the
telling pitch. If the speaker uses the asking pitch, the meaning of the sentence will be
changed. It shows that the speaker is asking a person whether it is raining or not and
at the same time, the speaker is expecting an answer. This is called turn-taking. As a
result, if the learner knows about the stress and intonation, he or she can improve
their speech as well.
Last but not least is, in order to improve a learner’s speech, the stress and
intonation knowledge can help him or her by recognizing the grammatical function
of intonation. That means, it helps to recognize the grammar and syntactic structure
of the utterance. According to (Underhill, 1994: p.84), there are many sentence type
with different stress and intonation. For example, if the sentence is WH questions, the
intonation of the sentence is just falling as well as imperative, exclamation, question
tags and expecting confirmation. But, if the sentence is a yes or no question, the tone
is rising. By knowing this syntactic structure of utterance, it will help a learner to
improve his or her speech because this knowledge is very important. A speaker is
capable of differentiating between declarative and imperative sentence.
©Ahmad Muzakkir bin Mohamad/Aizuddin bin Rojalai PISMP TESL 3 Semester 2

In conclusion, it is vital to speak using the right stress and intonation so that it
is comprehensible. Without the appropriate usage of stress and intonation, it is very
hard to understand what a speaker is trying to convey. With the difference of stress
and intonation, a speaker can change the meaning of the utterance. Furthermore, by
knowing this skill, we will be more confident to speak.