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Complex tones in English

Complex tones (Falling-Rising and Rising-Falling) are bidirectional tones: there is a change in the direction of the pitch movement associated with the stressed syllable. From the semantic point of view they are implicatory: the speaker intends the hearer to understand more than the words themselves mean.


Tone Description Combinability Meaning
Fall-Rise The pitch change begins about the high level (or slightly above or below it) and ending about the mid-low level, with an intermediate low pitch point Descending Stepping Head, High Head The so-called referring tone. Conveys the implication of contrast, contradiction, correction, doubt, hesitation, apology, warning, or emphasis.
Sliding Head The implicatory effect is increased (the most recurrent combination)
Rise-Fall The voice rises from a mid to a high pitch and then quickly falls to the bottom of the voice range May be combined with any head. The meaning varies according to the degree of expressiveness imparted by the head A quizzical tone. What is admitted or denied is in conflict with the speaker’s or the interlocutor’s previous opinion

Both the Fall-Rise and the Rise-Fall may be compressed into one syllable or spread over two or more syllables, but only the Fall-Rise may cover several words or even a whole utterance. This form of the Fall-Rise is called Fall-Rise Divided. It is used when the speaker wants to emphasize more than one word in an utterance. Functionally the divided and the undivided variant of the Fall-Rise are very similar: both impart an implicatory meaning to the utterance.

The meaning of the contours in different communicative types of utterances

Communicative types The Falling-Rising Tone pattern The Rising-Falling Tone pattern  
Statements Contradicting, correcting, uncertain, concerned, cordial, apologetic, reproachful, warning, defensively dissenting or grudgingly admitting Favourably or unfavourably impressed, awed, self-satisfied, challenging, disclaiming responsibility, ironic, quizzical  
Special questions Very emotive and appealing, warm, concerned, pleading, expressing contrast, surprise or despair (in echoes) greatly astonished Impatient, antagonistic, quizzical, challenging, disclaiming responsibility  
General Questions  
Quizzical, mocking, impressed, challenging  
Imperatives Urgent with a note of reproach or concern; or tentatively suggesting, polite, cordial, persuading Disclaiming responsibility, sometimes hostile and impatient  
Exclamations, conversation formulas Cordial, friendly, warm or protesting and scornful Impressed, sometimes with a hint of accusation or irony  



The devices that are used in English to produce additional expressive effects comprise special means of emphasis.

Emphatic tones are used in speech for various purposes, one of which is to increasethe semantic prominenceof separate items of an utterance or its overall prominence.

Emphasis applied to a tone not only increases the force of articulation and the effect of loudness, but also changes the pitch characteristics moving the upper point of a kinetic tone upward and the lower point of it downward, thus widening the interval of the pitch change. As a result of these changes the whole voice range of an utterance is widened as compared with the "normal" voice range or less emotionally coloured speech.

An emphatic tone is represented by doubling the tone mark. e.g. The High Falling Tone


ö `Now


An emphatic static tone on the first stressed syllable of an utterance may have the effect of raising or, in the case of the low static tone, lowering everything which follows it.

The semantic role of an emphatic static tone is closely connected with the meaning of the nuclear tone.

An emphatic high or low static tone may occur on any stressed syllable of the head. It may be preceded or followed by one or more ordinary or emphatic static tones. In principle there is no limit to the number of emphatic static tones that may be used in an utterance, but it is not common for many successive words to be made prominent in this way. Such patterns usually have an emphatic kinetic tone, which is by its nature more expressive and colourful than static.

Emphatic Nuclear Tones


¹ Tone Usage Meaning
1.     2.     3. The emphatic high rising tone   The emphatic low rising tone   The emphatic falling tones   is most commonly used in questions   in statements     are most energetic in statements; insistent in special questions and commands; strong in exclamations Surprise, a shocked reaction   a feeling of impatience     the effect of contrast  

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 1710

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