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Unemphatic and emphatic intonation.

Intonation can be emphatic and unemphatic. Unemphatic speech in English is characterized by the following principal peculiarities:

a) sentence-stress is distributed equally among the notional words in a syntagm; the stressed syllables occur at more or less regular intervals of time, while the unstressed ones are uttered in the remaining intervals;

b) a pitch distribution in a syntagm forms a regular descending scale, that is to say, all the stressed syllables are pronounced in such a way that the first one is the highest, while each successive syllable is lower in pitch than the preceding one; each of them is pronounced on the same level without any pitch variations;

c) the pitch of the initial unstressed syllables is lower than that of the first stressed syllable; it may either be level or slightly rising; all the other unstressed syllables are usually a little lower than the preceding stressed syllable and are either level or, more often, gradually descending to the pitch of the next stressed syllable;

d) the last stressed syllable (and the unstressed ones that follow it) have one of the two principal intonation contours (low-rising or low falling). These comprise the minimum of English intonation; theoretically, it is possible to use no emphasis and yet make oneself understood.

Emphasis may be defined as a special increase of effort on the part of the speaker. Cases of emphasis are classified under two general headings: emphasis for intensity and emphasis for contrast. Intensity emphasis is very often connected with the usage of words expressing measurable qualities, such as adjectives (ex. huge, enormous, lovely, tremendous, wonderful, marvellous, appalling, awful, tiny, absurd, killing, brilliant, deafening etc,), adverbs (ex. particularly, extremely, hopelessly etc.), plural nouns (ex. quantities, masses, heaps, tons, hundreds etc.), verbs (ex. rush, squeeze, hate etc.). Other words of this type can be intensified by other methods; for instance, by using the adverb very. (Ex. How 'very ri'diculous.)

Emphasis for contrast is not connected with the use of special words; any word may be emphasized. (Ex. "You must do it your"self! This sentence, with intensification, means: “No one is going to do it for you.”)

Emphasis manifest itself in a more energetic articulation of sounds; in the use of the strong forms of words instead of the weak forms; in an increase of sentence-stress; in various pitch-patterns. Emphasis may be of different degrees. A slight intensification of meaning may be produced by the modifications in the sphere of sentence-stress, but in more emphatic forms of speech special modifications of melody are involved.

Emphatic speech has the following important features:

a) the descending scale may be either completely absent or it may be partially destroyed;

b) the characteristic tones are not necessarily confined to the end of the syntagm;

c) the tones themselves differ from the unemphatic ones; there is a greater variety of pitch variations. Among them are the use of a falling instead of a rising tone, the use of the high falling or the fall-rising pitch-pattern;

d) the range of intonation in a syntagm may be widened or narrowed.

Breaking the descending scale is achieved by pushing up the pitch of an important word, and then continuing the descending scale from that point. This pitch rise is called “special (or accidental) Rise” and the head in which it is used is called the Upbroken Descending Head. A special rise giving some more prominence to the word pronounced in this way, is higher that the preceding syllable but not as high as the first stressed syllable.

In syntagms with homogeneous members a rise is generally used. Such enumeration is called simple and it is distinguished from emphatic (or dramatic enumeration), where the use of the falling tone, instead of a rising one, makes the utterance more expressive.

There are many ways of widening the range of intonation. One of them is connected with breaking the descending scale: the syntagm is started at a certain pitch from which the descending scale begins, until, on an important word, the pitch is raised and a new descending scale begins. Another way is a fall from a rather high pitch after the descending scale reaches a certain point. The fall usually begins from a higher pitch than the initial pitch of the syntagm. Widening the intonation range is also realized when the syntagm begins at a higher level and the intervals in the pitch of stressed syllables are made greater, so that the descending scale is practically destroyed due to the fact that there are only one or more important words, while all the other syllables are unstressed.

If the important words are emphasized by means of a fall-rise; all the other syllables are usually unstressed and as a rule, the descending scale is also usually absent. The fall-rise may occur within the same syllable, or it may be spread over a number of syllables. Sometimes one of the stressed syllables may be pronounced higher than the preceding one after which the downstepping pitch movement is resumed.

Widening the range of intonation serves to express unrestrained feelings and to produce an effect of general liveliness or cheerfulness. Narrowing the range of intonation serves to emphasize suppressed or painful emotions and expresses no cheerfulness or liveliness on the part of the speaker.


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The components of intonation. | Functional characteristics of intonation.

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