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Intonation and its components. The intonation group. Terminal tones.
The information conveyed by a sentence is expressed not only by proper words and grammar structures, but also by intonation. The term intonation implies variations of pitch, force of utterance and tempo. Variations of pitch are produced by significant moves of the voice up and down. The force, component of intonation is measured by the degree of loudness of syllables that determines the prominence of words. The tempo is determined by the rate of speech and the length of pauses.
Intonation is based on its two functions: the constitutive function, the distinctive function.
The Constitutive Function.Intonation forms sentences. Each sentence consists of one or more intonation groups.
An intonation group is a word or a group of words characterized by a certain intonation pattern and is generally complete from the point of view of meaning, eg: He's nearly sixty. (As a - matter of fact | he's - nearly sixty).
The intonation pattern consists of one or more syllables of various pitch levels and bearing a larger or smaller degree of prominence. Those intonation patterns that contain a number of syllables consist of the following parts: the pre-head, the head, the nucleus and the tail. The pre-head includes unstressed and half-stressed syllables preceding the head. Thehead consists of the syllables beginning with the first stressed syllable up to the last stressed syllable. The last stressed syllable is called the nucleus. The unstressed and half-stressed syllables that follow the nucleus are called the tail. Thus in the example They don't 'make so much fuss about it. ('Then' is the pre-head, 'don't make so much' is the head, 'fuss' is the nucleus, 'about it', is the tai)l.
The changes of pitch that take place in the nucleus are called nuclear tones. The nuclear syllable is generally the most prominent one in the intonation pattern. The nucleus and the tail form the terminal tone.It is the most significant part of the intonation group.
The modification of the intonation pattern is also due to the speed of utterance and pausation. We must point out in conclusion that of the three components of the intonation pattern pitch is the most significant one.
Timbre, a special colouring of human voice, is sometimes considered to be the fourth component of intonation. But as it has not been thoroughly investigated yet we shall exclude it from the description of intonation in this book.
The Distinctive Function.Intonation also serves to distinguishcommunicative types of sentences, the actual meaning of a sentence, the speaker's emotions or attitudes to the contents of the sentence, to the listener or to the topic of conversation. One and the same word sequence may express different meaning when pronounced with a different intonation pattern.