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Sentence-stress, tamber, tempo and rhythm


Lecture 12: English Unemphatic Intonation


q English unemphatic intonation is characterized by the following features: melody, sentence-stress, tamber, tempo and rhythm.


• The tones used in English unemphatic sentence are the so-called simple falling tone, the rising tone, and, sometimes, the level tone.

• The starting pitch-level of the falling tone:

• If there is only one stressed syllable in the sense-group, the fall starts at a pitch-level somewhat higher than the mid-level and usually reaches the lowest level, e.g. Yes. [↘jes]

• If there are two or more stressed syllables in the sense-group the fall in the last stressed syllable starts at a pitch-level somewhat lower than that of the preceding stressed or unstressed syllable and usually reaches the lowest level, e.g.

Sit down. [‘sit ↘daun]. Let’s begin. [‘lets bi↘gin].

• ( c ) The rise in the final stressed syllable or in the final unstressed ones begins at the lowest level and does not usually reach the pitch-level of the first stressed syllable, e.g.

Shall I begin? [‘ʃæl ai bi↗gin]

Shall I begin reading now? [‘ʃæl ai bi’gin ↗ri:diŋ nau]

• 3. The scale used in English unemphatic intonation is a gradually descending one. Its first stressed syllable is pronounced either on a level pitch or with a slight rise within it, e.g. (p.146)

Find page 29. [‘faind ‘peiʤ ‘twenti ↘nain]

• Each stressed syllable that follows the first stressed one is pronounced on a slightly lower pitch than the preceding syllable, until the last stressed syllable is reached. The pitch intervals between the stressed syllables are more or less equal.

Too many cooks spoil the broth. [‘tu: meni ‘kuks ‘spoil ðә ↘broθ]

• The pitch-level of the first stressed syllable of the descending scale is not deliberately raised or lowered. It is somewhat higher than the mid pitch-level, e.g.

Come in. [‘kʌm ↗in]

• The initial unstressed syllables preceding the descending scale are pronounced either on a low-level pitch, or on a mid-level pitch, or each successive syllable a little higher than the preceding one, e.g. (p. 147)

It was an important speech. [it wәz әn im’pͻ:tәnt ↘spi:tʃ]


• The final unstressed syllables that follow the terminal fall are usually pronounced on the lowest level pitch, or may sometimes continue the fall which takes place within the last stressed syllable and does not reach, in this case, the lowest level, e.g. (p. 147)

Read the first paragraph. [‘ri:d ðә ‘fә:st ↘pærәgrɑ:f]

Besides the gradually descending scale, there is the so-called broken descending scale, which forms a kind of link between unemphatic and emphatic intonation: it is when one of the syllables in the middle of a sentence is pronounced on a higher pitch than the preceding one, and then another descending scale follows.

  • The broken descending scale is used when the meaning of the sentence requires that one word should be singled out for some reason. A special rise is indicated by an upward-pointing arrow (↑) before the syllable in which it takes place, e.g. (p.148)

My friend knows lots of interesting men. [mai ‘frend ‘nәuz ↑lͻts әv ‘intristiŋ ↘men]

• A special rise is made sometimes on a word which is rather important, e.g., numerals.

Sentence-stress, tamber, tempo and rhythm

Sentence-stress: no words in unemphatic sentence are pronounced with deliberately increased stress.

Tamber: unemphatic sentences are pronounced with a tamber which does not express any particular emotions.

Tempo and rhythm: unemphatic sentences are pronounced with a tempo which is not deliberately quickened or slowed down to express any particular emotions.

• Any alteration of the tempo is determined by the semantic importance, presence or absence of stress on this or that word, the number, degree and position of stresses. Compare the sentence with three and two stresses: (p. 150)

I don’t think she knows. [ai ‘dәunt ‘θiŋk ∫i: ↘nәuz]

or: [ai ‘dәunt θiŋk ∫i: ↘nәuz]
The tempo in the second variant is noticeably quicker.

The rhythm of an unemphatic sentence is characterized by the recurrence of stressed syllables at more or less equal intervals of time.

Date: 2016-01-03; view: 191

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