Intonation (linguistics)

In linguistics, intonation is variation in spoken pitch when used, not for distinguishing words (a concept known as tone), but, rather, for a range of other functions such as indicating the attitudes and emotions of the speaker, signalling the difference between statements and questions, and between different types of questions, focusing attention on important elements of the spoken message and also helping to regulate conversational interaction. (The term tone is used by some British writers in their descriptions of intonation but to refer to the pitch movement found on the nucleus or tonic syllable in an intonation unit.)

Although intonation is primarily a matter of pitch variation, it is important to be aware that functions attributed to intonation such as the expression of attitudes and emotions, or highlighting aspects of grammatical structure, almost always involve concomitant variation in other prosodic features. David Crystal for example says that "intonation is not a single system of contours and levels, but the product of the interaction of features from different prosodic systems – tone, pitch-range, loudness, rhythmicality and tempo in particular."

Most transcription conventions have been devised for describing one particular accent or language, and the specific conventions therefore need to be explained in the context of what is being described. However, for general purposes the International Phonetic Alphabet offers the two intonation marks shown in the box at the head of this article. Global rising and falling intonation are marked with a diagonal arrow rising left-to-right and falling left-to-right , respectively. These may be written as part of a syllable, or separated with a space when they have a broader scope:

Here the rising pitch on street indicates that the question hinges on that word, on where he found it, not whether he found it.

Here, as is common with wh- questions, there is a rising intonation on the question word, and a falling intonation at the end of the question.

In many descriptions of English, the following intonation patterns are distinguished:

This page was last edited on 19 June 2018, at 12:44 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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