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Pre-nuclear patterns.

We know the main endings that tunes may have, but up to now we have considered only sense groups with a single prominent word right at the beginning of the group. Now we must consider sense groups containing words and syllables before the nucleus. It is convenient to divide the pre-nuclear pattern (i.e. that part of the tune preceding the nucleus) into two parts, the head and the pre-head. The head begins with the stressed syllable of the first prominent word (before the nucleus) and ends with the syllable immediately preceding the nucleus; the pre-head consists of any syllables before the stressed syllable of the first prominent word. In the examples below, prominent words are italicised.


| It was an un|usually dark | night.|


Pre-head Head Nucleus

The head begins with the stressed syllable of unusually, that is, the second syllable, and ends with dark, the last syllable before the nucleus, which is night. Notice that the first (unstressed) syllable of unusually belongs to the pre-head, together with the first three words of the sense group which are all unstressed.


|Whereís | John? |



Head Nucleus


Here the head consists of a single syllable and there is no pre-head, since there are no syllables before the head.


| I could have | kicked | myself.|



Pre-head Nucleus Tail


In this case there is no head since there is only one prominent word, and that must of course be nucleus. So the pre-head and the head may occur together or separately, or they may not be present at all if the nucleus is the first syllable of a sense group; but the nucleus is always present in every complete tune.




There are three different types of head, the low head, the stepping head and the sliding head.


The Low Head.

In the usual form of the low head, all the syllables contained in it are said on the same, rather low pitch. Before a low-falling nucleus this pitch is a little higher than the pitch of any tail.


E.g. Donít be so impatient, then.


Before the low-rising nucleus the low head must be at the same pitch as the beginning of the rise.


E.g. No oneís going to hurt you.


Before the high-falling nucleus, the low head most often starts on a low pitch but rises gradually, syllable by syllable, to end just below the starting pitch of the nucleus.


E.g. How did you manage to do that?


In the low head, the important words are singled out for attention Ė or accented Ė by means of stress alone, with no help from pitch features of the kind mentioned in dealing with the accentuation of the nuclear word. Words which are not prominent do not bear stress.


E.g. Donít upset yourself about that.


In this example the stresses which might be heard in other circumstances on the second syllables of yourself and about are suppressed, and the four consecutive unstressed syllables are all said more quickly as a result.

The low head is symbolised by placing the mark [ ıı ] before the stressed syllable of each prominent word in it. Unstressed syllables are left unmarked. The examples quoted in this section thus read as follows:


ıı Donít be so im\ patient, ıthen.

ıı No oneís going to / hurt you.

ıı How did you ıımanage to do \ that?

ıı Donít upııset yourself about / that.


The Stepping Head.

In the stepping head, the stressed syllable of the first important word is on a high, level pitch; that of the second important word is a step lower; that of the third a step lower still, and so on until the nucleus is reached.


E.g. Why did you tell me you couldnít come?


Accent in the stepping head is indicated by stress and pitch combined: a step down in pitch at the stressed syllable marks the word concerned as important. Unstressed syllables are said on the same pitch as the previous accented syllable. If a stress occurs in this head without a downward step in pitch, the word concerned is not accented.


E.g. Are you coming back again on Sunday?


The stresses on the words coming and again do not accent those words because there is no change of pitch accompanying them. Usually the stress in such words is weakened if not altogether suppressed.

If the head contains only one prominent word, the accented syllable of that word is high in pitch and there is of course no step downward because the only other accented syllable is the nucleus.


E.g. How do you do? Come over here a minute.


Apart from this case, each accented syllable is a step lower in pitch than the previous syllable; the exact pitch interval of the downward steps will vary in two ways:

a)The more accented syllables in the sense group, the smaller the downward step. In a head containing only two prominent words the whole available range can be devoted to the single step down.


E.g. Come and see me tomorrow.


When there are, say, five accented syllables in the head, the available pitch range must be divided between the four steps.


E.g. Why did you tell me that Regentís Park was quite close?


b)Before a Low fall or a High Rise the stepping head must end slightly higher in pitch than the beginning of the fall or rise; the interval available for the total fall in pitch within the head is therefore less than it is before the High Fall or the Low Rise.

E.g. Tell him to go away. Tell him to go away.


Tell him to go away? Tell him to go away.


The stepping head is symbolised by placing the symbol [ ] immediately before each accented syllable. The syllable which is stressed but not accented has the symbol [ ˙ ] placed before it. The examples quoted in this section are completely marked up as follows:


Why did you tell me you couldnít \ come?

Are you ˙coming back a˙gain on / Sunday?

How do you \ do?

Come over / here a ˙minute.

How \ stupid!

Come and see me to\ morrow.

Why did you tell me Regentís Park was quite \ close?

Tell him to go a\ way.

The Sliding Head.


This is similar to the stepping head, as will be seen from the following example:


Everyoneís bound to see it sometime.


The pattern of the accented syllables is exactly that found in the stepping head, the first high, the second lower, and so on, but the accented syllables are treated differently: instead of being said on the same pitch as the previous accented syllable they form a descending sequence, the first lower than the accented syllable, the second lower still, and so on. The last syllable of such a sequence may be on a very low pitch indeed but in any case it will always be lower in pitch than the starting pitch of the following accented syllable. If the structure of the sense group is such that there are no unaccented syllables between successive accented ones, then the accented syllables themselves may perform the downward slide, each successive slide beginning a step lower than the preceding one. This is quite different from anything found in the stepping head.


E.g. You canít just leave it.


Accent is again marked in this head by a combination of stress and pitch features: a stressed syllable which is at the beginning of one of the downward slides or which itself slides downwards, as in the last example, is accented. Stressed syllables in words which are not prominent conform to the pitch pattern of unstressed syllables.


E.g. No-oneís likely to notice.


The stressed syllable of likely continues the downward slide and is not a step higher than the previous unstressed syllable; the word is therefore not accented.

To symbolise the sliding head the mark [ æ ] is placed immediately before each accented syllable; any stressed but unaccented syllable is preceded by [ ˙ ]. The examples quoted in this section are fully marked as follows:


æEveryoneís æbound to æsee it \/sometime.

You æcanít æjust \/ leave it.

æNo-oneís ˙likely to \/notice.




The pre-head of a tune consists of the unaccented syllables before the first accented one, whether the latter is the nucleus or the beginning of the head. There are two types of pre-head, the low pre-head and the high pre-head.


The Low Pre-head.


All the syllables in the low pre-head are said on the same rather low pitch.


E.g. It was an unusually dark night.


The pitch (like that of the low head) is not usually so low as that of a final fall, but it must never be higher than the starting pitch of the first accented syllable. Before the two falls, the Rise-Fall, the High Rise and the Fall Rise it must be lower than the starting pitch of the nucleus; and before the stepping head and the sliding head it must be lower than the initial pitch of the head.


E.g. Youíre a fool. I was at school.


Oh, do you, indeed? Did you see him?


Youíll be late. He can be absolutely infuriating.


It was an expensive oversight.


Before the Low Rise and the low head, the low pre-head is on the same pitch level as the start of the rise or the head.


E.g. I believe so. Youíre looking very smart.


Before the stepping and sliding heads the low pre-head may contain stressed syllables, but these are not to be considered accented.



E.g. The man was perfectly right.


The address is reasonably clear.


It is usual for such stresses to be weakened if not wholly suppressed.

Unstressed syllables in the low pre-head are not marked at all; any unmarked syllables at the beginning of a sense group are therefore taken to belong to the low pre-head. Stressed syllables in the low pre-head, if they occur, are marked by placing the symbol [ ˙ ] immediately before them. The following examples are thus completely marked:


I was at \school.

It was an exæpensive \/oversight.

The ˙man was perfectly \right.


The High Pre-head.

In the high pre-head all syllables are said on the same relatively high pitch.


E.g. But you canít do that.


The high pre-head never contains stressed syllables since these, on a high pitch, would immediately become accented; nor is the high pre-head ever very long, rarely containing more than two or three syllables. It is also very much less common than the low pre-head. The high pre-head before a High Fall is said on the same pitch as the beginning of the fall.


E.g. You didnít! It was amazing.


Before any other nuclear tone or any head the high pre-head is said on a pitch higher than the beginning of the following accented syllable.


E.g. Low Fall: The brute! Rise-Fall: It was amazing!


Low Rise: Hullo. High Rise: At eleven?


Fall-Rise: It wasnít. Low Head: Itís an extraordinary thing.


Stepping Head: I canít be bothered.


Sliding Head: Heís the queerest chap.


The symbol [ ¯ ] is used to denote the high pre-head and it is placed before the first word of the sense group. All syllables following this symbol and preceding the next tone mark are taken to belong to the high pre-head. The examples given above are completely marked as follows:


¯But you ııcanít do /that.

¯You \didnít!

¯It was a\mazing!

¯The \brute!

¯It was a^mazing!


¯At e/leven?

¯It \/wasnít.

¯Itís an ex ııtraordinary /thing.

¯I canít be \bothered.

¯Heís the æqueerest \/chap.


Compound tunes.

All the tunes we have dealt with up to now have contained only one nuclear tone; these are called simple tunes, and the majority of tunes in English are of this kind. However, there are tunes which contain more than one nuclear tone, and these are called compound tunes.

Compound tunes may be formed by omission of a pause between what would otherwise be separate sense groups with simple tunes:


E.g. Do you take sugar? \No, I \donít.

You were here yesterday. \No, I /wasnít.

This omission of pause is rather common in conversational speech, since the shape of the tunes is usually sufficient to delimit the sense groups without pause. We have preferred in such cases to put pause marks in rather than leave them out, since the meaning of such compound tunes is merely the sum of the meaning of the two consecutive simple tunes, and the interpretation of compounds of this kind presents no difficulties beyond those connected with simple tunes.

There are two other types of compound tunes which are important for the foreign student:


High Fall(s) followed by a High Fall or Fall-Rise.


You \simply \canít i\magine how ıdull it ıwas

I could \hardly \bear to \shake his \hand.

You know \perfectly \well I \never al\low it.

You can \have it if you \/like.

Iím \absolutely \certain I \/brought it.


In these examples the last important word is marked by either a High Falling tone or a Fall-Rising tone; all the other important words are marked by a High Fall. Compare the first example with the following:


You simply canít i\magine how ıdull it ıwas.


The prominence given to the words simply canít by the Stepping Head is less than that given by the two High Falls, but otherwise the effect of the tunes is much the same. The function of the High Falls is simply to provide a greater degree of accent for the words on which they occur, and this is true of all the above examples.


High Fall followed by Low Rise.


I \like /chocolate.

You can leave them \all if you /like.

Iíd like a\nother if you ııdonít /mind.


This compound tune consists in its simplest form of a High Fall on one word and a Low Rise on a following word any intervening syllables being low in pitch. The resulting pattern may be very similar to some forms of the simple tune containing the Fall-Rise nuclear tone. They differ a great deal, however, in their meanings, so it is necessary to keep them separate. The compound tune is basically a combination of a simple tune ending in a Low Rise. Compare the following:


a) By the time he ar/rived | he was completely ex\hausted.

b) He was completely ex\hausted by the ııtime he ar/rived.

In a) the adverbial clause precedes the main clause and is given a separate rising tune, but in b), where the main clause comes first, the two tunes are, as it were, welded together into one. The fall is still on the word exhausted and the rise on the word arrived, but there is no longer any pause and the word time is said on a low rather than a high pitch. Suppose that the last example was said with the simple Fall-Rise tune:


He was commpletely ex\/ hausted by the ıtime he arırived.


The differences between this and the compound Fall plus Rise are as follows:

1. In the simple tune the Sliding Head is used; in the compound tune the Stepping Head.

2. The fall in pitch on exhausted is from a higher level in the compound tune than in the simple.

3. The fall in pitch may be to a lower level in the compound tune than in the simple.

4. In the simple tune the syllables after the fall may gradually rise one after the other; in the compound they are always at the lowest level until the final Low Rise.

5. In the simple tune the stresses after the fall may be weakened or suppressed; in the compound this is never so.

If all this differences are operating, the patterns of pitch and stress will be as follows:


He was completely ex\hausted by the ııtime he ar/rived.


He was commpletely ex\/hausted by the ıtime he arırived.


However, all these differences may not be operating; there may be no head needed in the tune, and there may be no distinction between the final pitch of the fall, the stressing of syllables after the fall, and the way the syllables reach the terminal pitch. All that is left then is the height of the fall, and this is not always a reliable enough guide. So it is perfectly possible for the following to be regarded as either a simple Fall-Rise or a compound Fall plus Rise:


I like chocolate.


Yet because the simple and the compound tunes express very different attitudes on the part of the speaker it is helpful, even in such cases, to distinguish the two tunes in notation.


E.g. Simple tune: I \/like chocolate.

Compound tune: I \like /chocolate.


Compare also the following pairs, which may be indistinguishable in form:


I \/hope youíll beable tocome.

I \hope youíll be ııable to /come.

\/Try not to belater thansix.

\Try not to be ıılater than /six.


One other point is worth remembering: because the Fall plus Rise is a compound, the fall and the rise always occur on separate words. Therefore if both the fall and the rise occur on one word, the pattern must be an example of the simple Fall-Rise.



Answer the following questions:


1. What is a tune? What are the six tunes of single-syllable sense groups?

2. What are the peculiarities of longer sense groups?

3. What is the nucleus? What is the tail? How do we know where they separate from one another? What are the nuclear tones?

4. What are the possible items of a pre-nuclear pattern?

5. What types of head can you name?

6. What types of pre-head can you name?

7. What is the difference between simple tunes and compound tunes?


Date: 2016-01-05; view: 2824

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The tunes of longer sense groups containing only one important word. | Find and mark the possible items of the following intonation patterns. Use the example to help you.
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