Chapter 8: Suprasegmental Phonology: Stress, Rhythm, Intonation 8.1. Stess and prominence. The phonemic (contrastive) function of stress 8.2.

Free stress and fixed stress. The predictability of accentual patterns 8.3. Metric patterns 8.4. Morphological processes and stress shift 8.5. Primary and secondary stress 8.6. Weak and strong forms. Vowel reduction and delition 8.7. Rhythm 8.8. Intonational contours. Their pragmatic value

8.8. Intonational contours. Their pragmatic value
Variation in pitch leads to different intonational contours. Intonation is an essential suprasegmental element in any language and it can have, as already pointed out, contrastive values, the same utterance, though preserving the same denotational meaning, suggesting different attitudes of the speaker if different intonational contours are used. There are languages in Asia (Chinese for instance) where pitch variation changes the very meaning of the word. Thus, the same phonetic sequence (signifiant) is associated to different meanings (signifiés) if various pitch changes are used. Such languages are called tone languages. The systematic character of intonation is also important to mention, in the sense that within a certain linguistic system a certain intonational pattern will be used and recognized by the speakers of that language as having a given function. Thus, a rising intonational contour will characterize interrogative structures or utterances, or will express surprise dissatisfaction, etc. In languages like Romanian for instance intonation is the only element that marks the contrast between an interrogative sentence (a rising contour) and its affirmative counterpart. E.g.: El a venit cu ea? ↑(interrogative) vs. El a venit cu ea. ↓(affirmative). Several tone groups are distinguished in English by phoneticians Thus, J. D. O’Connor and G. F. Arnold (1973) discriminate among ten tone groups characterized by distinct pitch variations. It is imprtant to remember that it is the nucleus of the stressed syllable that is always the locus of that change in pitch: 1. The Low Drop contains falling nuclear tones and sounds definite and complete and can be used in statements, wh-questions (that sound serious, intense and urgent) yes-no questions (when the speaker sounds serious), in commands. 2. The same completeness and definiteness is suggested by the High Drop, but the speaker no longer sounds detached, the tone group suggesting involvement through its greater variation in pitch. 3. The Take-Off is used in statements that invite the contribution of the listener to the conversation. In questions it is often used to invite the listener to repeat what he or she has just said. It implies a low rise in pitch.

4. The Low-Bounce is an intonational contour that is also based on a low rise in the nucleus, statements uttered with this intonational contour sounding soothing, reassuring. Questions asked in this way express the interest of the listener. 5. The Switchback includes a fall-rise intonational pattern. It is used in statements to express contrast, while in questions it expresses astonishment. Commands having this intonational contour contain a warning note, while interjections express scorn. 6. The Long Jump has a high fall nuclear tone and shares the definiteness and completeness of falling intonational contours, expressing, in addition to the high drop presented above, a note of protest. Commands sound rather as recommendations than as genuine orders. 7. The High-Bounce is characterized by a high rise in the nucleus, being a typical interrogative pattern in European languages. 8. The Jacknife is a rise-fall intonational pattern, expressing definiteness, completeness and often the fact that the speaker is impressed or awed. 9. The High Dive includes a high fall followed by a low rise. It is used when it is the first part of a word group that contains an important idea and not its second, which is of secondary importance. 10. The Terrace maintains a level intonation and is typically used to express nonfinality.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful