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Intonation in a written language

12.02. Intonation performs its sentence-constitutive function not only in oral speech, but also in written language.

Intonation is implicitly present in any written sentence. It is the writer who puts it there in the process of expressing in written form his thoughts, emotions, feelings and attitudes.

When writing he intends his intonations to be reproduces by readers (both in silent and loud reading) as closely to the original as possible.


(13) Role of punctuation marks

12.03. Intonation in a written sentence is provided by the use of punctuation marks.

v Of course, they cannot represent exactly the whole gamut [gæmәt] of the extremely rich and varied intonations of living speech.

  • However, punctuationmarks provide enough cues for the reader to intone written sentences mentally or aloud in such a way as to understand or cause others to understand not only all the thoughts, but also many of the emotions and attitudes expressed in them.


(14) Punctuation marks

12.03. (continuation) The following punctuation marks are used within a sentence:

The comma, the colon, the semi-colon often indicate pauses, intonations expressing finality (usually the falling tone) or non-finality (usually the rising tone) which express logical and syntactic relationships between words in the sentence thus making it intelligible (understandable, clear).

The punctuation marks used at the end of sentences the full stop, the question and exclamation marks do double duty: (1) they delimit sentences not only visually, but also by signaling their intonational delimitation (change of pitch and a pause), and () they simultaneously indicate different syntactic types of sentences and, consequently, the specific type of each intonation.

(15) A full stop

12.04. If a written sentence has no punctuation mark at he end, its syntactic type and the intonation determining it remain unknown.

  • For instance, is not actually a sentence and its intonation is unknown until one of the sentence-final punctuation marks is placed at its end. Each of these marks will signal a different intonation and, consequently, a different type of sentence.
  • Thus, the full stop will signal the writers intention to make the sentence a declarative one expressing a simple statement of fact, in accordance with which he himself must have pronounced at least mentally, when he was writing, and readers will pronounce the sentence mentally or aloud with the intonation characteristic of sentences of this type, i.e.



(16) Question and exclamation marks

12.05. The question mark will signal a different type of a sentence with a different intonation, viz. an interrogative sentence expressing the so-called general (yes or no) question:


There is only one difference between the declarative and interrogative intonations, viz. that in pitch direction (downward vs. upward) within the same range.

12.07. If an exclamation mark is placed at the end of a sentence, e.g. ! it will signal a third type of sentence whose intonation is different from that of both declarative and interrogative sentences. This is another manifestation of the sentence-distinctive function of intonation.

But intonation of exclamatory sentences differs from intonation of the other two types. The range of fall in the exclamatory sentence is wider. The force of utterance, the resultant loudness and the average length of syllables are usually greater in pronouncing an exclamatory sentence than they are in saying a declarative or interrogative one. Cf.

. ? !

In the latter case the sentence-distinctive function of intonation is performed not by only one of its components, but by a combination of them.


(17) Sentence intonation

12.08. On the perceptual level, sentence intonation is a complex unity of four components formed by communicatively relevant variations in:

1) Voice pitch, or speech melody;

2) The prominence of words, or their accent;

3) The tempo (rate), rhythm and pausation of the utterance, and

4) Voice-tamber.

This complex unity serves to express adequately, on the basis of the proper grammatical structure and lexical composition of the sentence, the speakers or writers thoughts, volition, emotions, feelings and attitudes towards reality and the contents of the sentence.


(18) Other definitions of intonation

12.09. However, this definition of sentence intonation differs radically from the one given by the overwhelming majority of linguists, who reduce intonation to only one of its components, viz. variations in voice pitch.

Thus, D. Jones writes: Intonation may be defined as the variations which take place in the pitch of the voice in connected speech. (Jones D. An outline of English Phonetics, 9th ed. Cambridge, 1960)

Lilias Armstrong and Ida Ward define intonation as follows: By intonation we mean the rise and fall of the pitch of the voice when we speak. stress and intonation are very closely connected.. (Armstrong, L. and Ward, I. A Handbook of English Intonation. Cambridge, 1926.)

The American descriptivists also speak of stress and intonation, i.e. they do not consider stress as a component of intonation, although they, too, regard both as closely connected with each other.

12.12. All four components of intonation cannot be isolated or separated from the others in actual speech. However, it is possible to single them out for purposes of analysis. Then it will be seen, that an individual component of intonation, though inseparable from others, performs a special function and thus is crucial in implementing this or that function of intonation as a whole, while the other of its components play a subordinate and auxiliary part in implementing this particular function.

Intonation as a whole performs three functions - constitutive, distinctive and recognitive.


(19) Delimitative function of intonation

12.13. Each syllable in the sentence (i.e. its vocoid elements) has a certain pitch and cannot exist without it.

Simultaneously, the pitch manifests itself in the delimitative function, both within a sentence and at its end.

12.14. Within a sentence, such delimited portions of a sentence are known as sense-groups, or intonation groups.

Date: 2016-01-03; view: 3257

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