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What is prosody? (1)

Introduction to Prosody


Prosody is the study of the tune and rhythm
of speech and how these features contribute
to meaning.

Theories and Models

Dr Robert Mannell


What is prosody? (2)


What is prosody? (3)

Prosody is the study of those aspects of
speech that typically apply to a level above that
of the individual phoneme and very often to
sequences of words (in prosodic phrases).
Features above the level of the phoneme (or
“segment”) are referred to as suprasegmentals.
A phonetic study of prosody is a study of the
suprasegmental features of speech.


At the phonetic level, prosody is characterised
by:z vocal pitch (fundamental frequency)
z loudness (acoustic intensity)
z rhythm (phoneme and syllable duration)
Phonetic studies of prosody often concentrate
on measuring these characteristics.

What is prosody? (4)



What is prosody? (5)

Prosody has been studied from numerous
perspectives by people belonging to differing
linguistic schools.
There has been great diversity of approaches to
Different approaches examine prosody from the
perspective of grammar, of discourse, of
pragmatics and of phonetics and phonology



Prosody can be regarded as part of the
grammar of a language.
Discourse approaches examine the prosody
of normal interactions rather than stylised,
constructed, fluent, scripted interactions.
Functionalist approaches integrate the study
of prosody with the study of grammar and
meaning in natural social interactions.



vocal pitch pitch. The same acoustic features that are used to express prosody (intensity (intensity. etc. Paralinguistic features may help to indicate a speaker’s attitude. Australian versus New Zealand pronunciations. styles of speech of farmers versus bankers. eg. These are effectively sociolinguistic markers of speaker identity. What is prosody? (11) Another paralinguistic aspect of speech are those features that indicate a speakers membership of a speech community community. For example. speaker Prosody can have the effect of changing the meaning of a sentence by indicating a speaker's attitude to what is being said (eg. z z z Some speech communities might prefer broader pronunciations Some speech communities might prefer more nasal voices. but which contribute to the meaning of an utterance. sarcasm. 12 2 .) particularly when prosody works in conjunction with the social/situational context of an utterance. state of health or emotional state z 9 z Paralinguistic aspects of speech are those aspects that are not strictly linguistic. I can simultaneously be sad and ironic or fearful and sarcastic.5/18/2009 What is prosody? (6) z What is prosody? (7) Pragmatics examines the distinction between the literal meaning of a sentence and the meaning intended by the speaker. 7 z 8 What is prosody? (8) What is prosody? (9) Speech contains various levels of information that can be described as:z Linguistic – direct expression of meaning z Paralinguistic – may indicate attitude or membership of a speech community z Non-linguistic – may indicate something about a speaker’s vocal physiology. Some speech communities might speak louder or faster. although this may overlap with emotional aspects of speech. 10 What is prosody? (10) z 11 Prosody overlaps with emotion in speech. rate of utterance) are also affected by emotion in the voice. it can indicate irony. etc. rhythm.

speech Note.5/18/2009 What is prosody? (12) z z What is prosody? (13) Gender has both paralinguistic and nonlinguistic aspects. that even this distinction can blur when the health issue is cognitive and affects the expression of meaning. if its not very relevant to what‘s being said) British Schools (1) There have been many theoretical approaches to prosody. forces The main acoustic correlates of prosody (rhythm. our current emotional state might be a non-linguistic undertone to what is being said (ie. 15 z z Segmental and suprasegmental features of speech are both affected by linguistic. The earliest such schools dealt with the metrical structure of poetic verse (eg. the ancient Greeks). Some features may be regarded as more masculine or feminine by a particular speech community (eg. Often the British and American approaches to prosody are contrasted. These features are linguistic to the extent that they are relevant to the meaning of the current utterance. degree of pharyngealisation in Arabic) But. intensity and fundamental frequency) are also correlates of paralinguistic and nonlinguistic phenomena. however. features that are purely a consequence of physiological differences are non-linguistic aspects of speech 13 z z 14 What is prosody? (14) z z What is prosody? (15) Our state of health can be evident in our speech. particularly emotion. paralinguistic and non non-linguistic linguistic forces. On the other hand. 16 Schools of Prosody z z 17 A speaker’s emotional state is often evident in the speaker’s voice. Crombie (1987) listed the following three British approaches to intonation:z syntactic approach z affective or attitudinal approach z discoursal approach 18 3 . but this dichotomy is a simplification of the diversity of theoretical and experimental perspectives. This would be a non-linguistic aspect of our speech.

Each foot is dominated by a stressed syllable. z 23 British schools tend to focus on pitch contours or tunes whilst American schools tend to focus on pitch levels levels. “It is not enough to treat intonation systems as if they merely carried a set of emotional nuances … English intonation contrasts are grammatical” (Halliday. is often referred to as the nuclear syllable or the tonic syllable syllable. Pike (1945:21). or rather the strongest syllable in the accented word. most prominent syllable (usually its primary stressed syllable). 22 British Schools (6) z Halliday (1) z As an example of a British school we will examine the approach of Michael Halliday and Systemic Systemic-Functional Functional linguistics linguistics. In English a foot starts with a stressed syllable and ends with the last unstressed syllable before the next stress. A tone group can contain one or more rhythmic feet. a founder of the American school said that intonation “… is merely a shade of meaning … superimposed upon … intrinsic lexical meaning according to the attitude of the speaker”. It contains the strongest. 24 4 . The accented word is the focal point for the tonal characteristics of the tone group. Different tunes are associated with different meanings. 1967:10) In contrast.5/18/2009 British Schools (2) British Schools (3) Crombie (1987) states that the British schools have the following elements in common:z "dividing dividing the flow of speech into tone groups or tone units (tonality)" z "locating the syllables on which major movements of pitch occur (tonicity)" z "identifying the direction of pitch movements (tone)" z 19 z 20 British Schools (4) z z z British Schools (5) z Central to British models of prosody is the idea of the “tone group” A tone group is a sequence of speech dominated by prominent or accented word. 21 z z The accented syllable.

30 5 . 25 z z 26 Halliday (4) Halliday (5) Halliday describes 5 simple and 2 compound primary tones for English. Tone 1 (falling) “Are you coming?” – this is a bit more like a command. Halliday builds up a complex pattern of relationships between tone and meaning. From these tones and the idea of polarity. 1985. 1967:30) Polarity refers to the truth of a statement (“true” or “false” in fact or in belief) or to whether something is “known” versus “unknown”. but turns out to be certain’. the pitch of the tonic falls. 1967:30) Halliday (7) Tone 1: falling tone – “polarity known … the unmarked realisation of a statement” (also a question with known polarity) Tone 2: rising tone – “polarity unknown … the unmarked realisation of a yes yes-no no question” question Tone 3: low rising – “’not yet decided whether know or unknown’ … dependent on something else” Tone 4: falling-rising – “’seems certain. if uncertain. 281-282) Some examples:z Tone 1 (falling) “That’s a dog.” (Halliday. especially contradicting assertions … It often carries an implication of ‘you ought to know that” (the above is from Halliday. Halliday utilises the British concept of tunes which extend across a section of text. 28 Halliday (6) z z z z z 29 Tonality. according to Halliday. These tunes have a “nucleus” which is the “first (salient) syllable in the tonic foot”. Tone is “… a complex pattern built out of a simple opposition between certain and uncertain polarity. it rises.” – statement z Tone T 1 (falling) (f lli ) “I “Is Fid Fido a d dog?” ?” – question ti with known polarity z Tone 2 (rising) “Are you coming?” – I don’t know if you are coming but want to know. They are:- z z z z z z z z Tone 1 – falling T f lli Tone 2 – high rising Tone 3 – low rising Tone 4 – falling-rising Tone 5 – rising-falling Tone 13 – falling plus low rising Tone 53 – rising-falling plus low rising 27 z z “If polarity is certain. It is associated with reservations and conditions” Tone 5: rising-falling – “’seems uncertain.5/18/2009 Halliday (2) z z z Halliday (3) A consequence of Halliday’s view of intonation was that being a part of grammar it should be analysed in the same way as other grammatical systems.” (Halliday. but turns out not to be’. z cf. is related to the number of tone groups in an utterance and each such tone group is seen as one “move” in a speech act. It is used on strong.

Occasionally a tone group might only consist of a single word. changing the tone means that you have selected a different word. tempo. but very often it consists of more than one word.. changing the tone on “ma” in Mandarin Chinese may change the meaning from “horse” to “mother”. rhythm and voice quality z z (the above summary is after Chun(2002)) 35 The use of the word “tone” in some theories of intonation and prosody needs to be clarified. be labeled extra-high. Bloomfield (1933) referred to "differences of pitch . For example. That is. used pitch contours rather than pitch levels).” “These four levels may. Tone 5 (rising-falling) “You ought to know that. 34 American Schools (2) American Schools (3) Pike (1945) used:z pitch heights to characterise intonation contours (contours are sequences of pitch height) z a systematic approach to speaker attitude z the interdependence of intonation. 1945) 36 6 . Prosodic tone is attached to a higher level entity such as a tone group (a phrase or sentence characterised by a particular prosodic pattern). for convenience. Tone 4 (falling-rising) “Bill is coming if he’s allowed..5/18/2009 Halliday (8) z z z Tone in Intonation and Lexical Tone (1) z Tone 3 (low-rising) “I think I’ll come tomorrow.” – but not really sure. stress. like the British. 33 z z American schools of prosody are often described as relying on a phonemic or levels approach to intonation intonation. quantity. For example. as secondary phonemes". which might in turn be a single syllable.” z z z 31 32 American Schools (1) Tone in Intonation and Lexical Tone (2) z z Lexical tone in tone languages is usually attached to a single syllable. mid and low respectively…” (Pike. where changing the pitch contour of a word changes its meaning . Pike (1945) utilised four levels of pitch because “four levels are enough to provide for the writing and distinguishing of all the contours which have differences of meaning so far discovered.” – conditional statement. This usage must not be confused with lexical tone in tone languages. (but note that Bloomfield. high.

Pierrehumbert and Beckman (1988). z Chun. E. K. (2005). 38 References (1) References (2) These texts were referred to above. pp. (2002) Discourse Intonation in L2: From theory and research to practice. University of California. (1945) The intonation of American English. Santa Barbara z Crombie.. 37 39 ToBI framework z z The remainder of this topic will concentrate on the ToBI framework of Pierrehumbert. MIT Press. (2005)) is an intonation transcription system based on two relative levels (low and high).5/18/2009 American Schools (4) z z The ToBI framework for transcribing prosody (eg.. Beckman and others others. E. z Halliday. but are not required reading. & Shattuck-Hufnagel. M. ToBI is particularly suited to phonetic analyses of prosody but increasingly it is used in studies of prosody and meaning.K. ed. Beckman et al al. Jun.. W. 15). 9-54. z Beckman. (1967) Intonation and grammar in British English. (1988). 40 7 . D.A. Pike. Pierrehumbert. B. Japanese Tone Structure (Linguistic Inquiry Monograph Series No. In S. Oxford University Press. S. M. London: Edward Arnold.-A. J. (1987) "Intonation in English: A systematic perspective".au/speech/phonetics/phonology/intonation/tobi_introduction. The Hague: Mouton. M. J. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. z z z Halliday.html Next week’s lecture will be on ToBI. Prosodic Typology: The Phonology of Intonation and Phrasing.L. "The original ToBI system and the evolution of the ToBI framework". M. (1985) An introduction to Functional Grammar. & Beckman.K.A.M. ToBI is dealt with on the following web site:- http://clas..