Intonation: its definition, linguistic functions, components; approaches to the problems of intonation


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

In the intonation group not only stresses but pitch and duration i. intonation in the broad sense play a role. Structurally the intonation group has some obligatory formal characteristics.



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Intonation: its definition, linguistic functions, components; approaches to the problems of intonation

Intonation is defined as a complex, a whole, formed by significant variations of pitch, loudness and tempo (the rate of speech and pausation) closely related.

The syllable is widely recognized to be the smallest prosodic unit. It has no meaning of its own, but it is significant for constituting hierarchically higher prosodic units.

The succession of syllables forms a rhythmic unit - either one stressed syllable or a stressed syllable with a number of unstressed ones grouped around it.

In the intonation group not only stresses, but pitch and duration (i.e. intonation in the broad sense) play a role. Structurally the intonation group has some obligatory formal characteristics. These are the nuclear stress on the semantically most important word and the terminal tone.

The utterance is the main communicative unit. It is characterized by semantic entity which is expressed by all the language means: lexical, grammatical and prosodic. The prosodic structure of an utterance is a meaningful unit that contributes to the total meaning of the utterance.

The supraphaphrasal unity is a totality of information groups or utterances, united by general subtopic and common intonation key.

Each component of intonation can be described as a system.

Pitch is described as a system of tones (Fall, Rise, Fall-Rise and so on), pitch levels (keys), which can be high, medium and low, and pitch ranges (wide, medium and narrow).

Loudness is described as normal, increased (forte) or low (piano).

Tempo includes rate of speech and pausation. The rate of speech can be normal, slow and fast. Pauses are classified according to their length, their position in the utterance (final – nonfinal) and their function (syntactic, emphatic and hesitation pauses).

Speech rhythm is defined as a regular occurrence of stressed syllables in a speech continuum. English is a stress-timed language. In such languages rhythm is based on a larger unit than syllable, the rhythmic group. The stressed syllables in the rhythmic group form peaks of prominence. Speech rhythm is regulated by the style of speech. Maximum rhythmicality is observed in poetry. Rhythm performs the functions of delimitation and integration, aesthetic and pragmatic functions.

The intonation pattern is the basic unit of intonation. It serves to actualize syntagmas into intonation groups. The nuclear tone is the most important part of the intonation pattern. The nuclear tone may be followed by the tail. The two other components of the intonation pattern, the head and the prehead form its pre-nuclear part.

Intonation is a powerful means of communication. The communicative function of intonation embraces all its numerous uses, which can be grouped into the following functions: distinctive or phonological; organizing; pragmatic; rhetorical; social; stylistic.

Performing its distinctive function intonation can differentiate the syntactic (communicative) types of sentences, attitudinal meanings, the actual meaning of sentences.

Intonation serves to structure the text. On the one hand, it delimitates the text into smaller units, on the other hand, it ties together smaller units into bigger ones.

Intonation conveys the information content of an utterance. It highlights the most important information in an utterance and helps to distinguish which information is new (the rheme) and which information is known to the listener (the theme).

There are two main approaches to the problem of intonation in Great Britain.

A contour analysis is traditional and widely used. According to this approach the smallest unit to which linguistic meaning can be attached is a tone-group (sense-group). This theory is based on the assumption that intonation consists of basic functional "blocks". Much attention is paid to these "blocks" but not to the way they are connected.

According to the grammatical approach to the study of intonation the main unit of intonation is a clause. Intonation is a complex of three systemic variables: tonality, tonicity and tone, which are connected with grammatical categories. Tonality marks the beginning and the end of a tone-group. Tonicity marks the focal point of each tone-group. Tones can be primary and secondary. They convey the attitude of the speaker.


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