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ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY WAJ 3102
An informal definition: The ‘music’ of a language, its characteristic ‘melody’ and ‘rhythm’. A more formal definition: The system of prosodic contrasts that a language employs. Supra-segmental features: Phonetic features that span more than a single speech segment. Features that span a whole syllable or are only apparent when one syllable is compared with others in its neighbourhood. Typical suprasegmental features:
– Voice pitch – Loudness or vocal effort – Length or relative duration of a syllable
Suprasegmental features realize or express prosodic contrasts.
Intonation: the pitch pattern of an utterance. Rhythm: patterns of stress in time. Stress: the relative prominence of a syllable. .English Prosody Made up of three prosodic systems: – Stress: operates at the level of the word – Rhythm – Intonation: operates at the level of the phrase or whole utternace.
Some complications Prosody in languages that are related to English can be analysed under three main headings (word stress. Prosodic interference or transfer effects (interference of L1 prosody on L2) can be a major source of difficulty for second language learners. More on this later. However. rhythm and intonation applies only in part. rhythm. for tone languages (Chinese. . intonation). and many others) or other languages whose prosodic system is quite different from that of English (like Japanese). Vietnamese. the 3-way division of prosody into stress.
but not the most prominent in the word are called ‘secondary stressed’ syllables. Unstressed syllables undergo vowel reduction.English word stress Locate the main stress (most prominent syllable) in these words: electric electrician permit (n) permit (v) Locate the unstressed syllables in the words above. . Syllables that are not reduced.
English word stress Hence we may distinguish 3 levels of stress in English words: – Primary: main stress or accent – Secondary: unreduced and not accented – Tertiary: reduced or unstressed. Some word stress alternations in English: diplomat diplomacy diplomatic photograph photography photographic .
There is some dialect variation with vowel reduction. English word stress ‘likes’ to follow an alternating pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables: .English word stress It is sometimes hard to distinguish between secondary and tertiary levels of stress.
which might be said to have two primary stressed syllables: psycholinguistics One syllable in the word tends to carry the accent in the intonation contour of a whole utternace. . Polysyllabic words in English have a single center of stress prominence. the accented syllable.Word stress is culminative in English. Even in long words. The stress pattern of a word ‘culminates’ in a single syllable – the one that potentially carries phrase accent.
(Compared with the 2nd element of the phrase) Only one accented syllable per word. look-in <opportunity> compound look in . The second element of the compound is deaccented.Compound words Words that are composed of words: hot-dog hot dog phrase <look in> Compound word has initial stress.
.Stress is important for the sound pattern of English words Non-native speakers of English should practice hearing and producing these stress contrasts: an insult to insult an overflow to overflow an increase to increase a walkout to walk out See exercises from Peter Ladefoged.
is an exception to the rule in this case.Stress and word class in English All major lexical items carry primary stress (have an accentable syllable). The preposition ‘on’ which carries primary stress. The accented syllables on lexical items and the unstressed function words set up a rhythmic pattern in English utterances. . Function words are normally unstressed (reduced) John was sure that the keys were on the table.
Other languages are said to be ‘syllable timed’ (e.g. . English is said to be a ‘stress-timed’ language.English rhythm Stressed syllables tend to occur at regular intervals of time. No language is perfectly rhythmic (isochronous) and this classification of types of language rhythm remains controversial. French) or ‘mora timed’ (Japanese. You can usually tap in regular time to the primary stressed syllables in a fluent English phrase. Finnish). Stressed syllables tend to occur at regular intervals of time.
Summarizing: English stress Three levels of prominence (stress) in English words. Alternating stressed and unstressed syllables set up rhythmic patterns in speech. . or undergo reduction: Accented Primary stress yes Secondary stress no Tertiary stress no Reduced no stressed no stressed yes unstressed English stress is culminative. English is said to be stress-timed. Depending on whether a syllable may carry accent.
Is complex and involves several suprasegmental features: Pitch prominence: accented syllables carry the main changes of voice pitch in the utterance. Length: stressed syllables are longer in duration.Phonetic expression of stress in English. Gestural magnitude: Length and loudness differences may reflect a common factor that prominent syllables are produced with larger articulatory and vocal gestures. Loudness: stressed syllables are louder. . which resist reduction and coarticulation effects – properties of unstressed syllables.
. The domain of tone is the syllable (Hence tone is a supra-segmental feature). Tone and word stress tend to be ‘competing’ prosodic systems.Tone Tone languages use voice pitch (and possibly voice quality) to make lexical contrasts (to distinguish words). The number of tones a language uses is quite limited.
Vietnamese tones 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 a á à ạ ả ã .
.Types of tone language (Standard) Chinese and Vietnamese are examples of contour tone languages. Their tones are made up of dynamic voice pitch changes (along with voice quality). usually in just two pitch registers: high and low. Register tone languages (predominating in Africa) have level tones.
A West African register tone language .
Why might this be so? The phonetic features which carry tone and stress are similar. Tonal contrasts and stress contrasts may make competing requirements on the speech mechanism. Stress contrasts exist between syllables in different positions in a word: permit permit In Vietnamese. In English. every syllable carries a tone.Tone and word stress May be regarded as competing systems of word prosody. Some syllables undergo reduction. . Tone contrasts would be threatened by syllable reduction. Does Vietnamese have word stress? A controversial issue. there is only one accent bearing syllable per word. Syllables are not reduced.
What would an utterance sound like without its intonation contour? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Changes in voice pitch are the main phonetic cue for intonation. This utterance was generated by a speech synthesiser. .Intonation The melody of a phrase or whole utternace. But the duration and pausing pattern in an utterance are also crucial cues for intonation. where voice pitch can be separately controled from other parameters of speech production.
The elements of an intonation contuour The major pitch peaks and voice pitch changes. The relative duration of segments and the location of pauses (junctures). The shape and location of these accents. spectrogram Voice pitch trace bird hand two bush . which are known as ‘accents’.
But some generalizations can be made about the meanings of basic accent types: yes yes yes yes yes fall low rise level high rise risefall ‘agree’ ‘assert’ neutral ‘go on’ bored impatient surprise question insist .Meaning and the shape of pitch accents The meaning of a pitch accent will be strongly affected by the context in which it appears.
– Asserting.… Demarcative: marking phrase boundaries. inquiring. On subsequent mention. insisting. It is now old information. identifying phrase boundaries Highlighting: marking ‘new’ or ‘important’ information. – Related to syntactic parsing.Functions of intonation: What does intonation do? Illocutionary: marking speaker’s attitude and intended purpose of the utterance. pleading. to be thus highlighted to draw the listener’s attention. – When a topic is first introduced into discourse. the item shifts out of intonational focus. it is likely to be placed at the intonational centre of the phrase. .
Go on. A: B: Your mom will marry a lawyer.Some intonational contrasts to analyse Would you like tea or coffee? A: B: A lion is a mammal. A: B: Jenny gave Peter instructions to follow. A: B: When danger threatens your children call the police. A: B: .