The notion of “tone”. Static and kinetic tones

Prominent segments of an utterance are usually associated with a pitch change (or a pitch contrast) combined with increased force of articulation and increased duration. Such a cooperation of different phonetic features is reflected in the notion of the tone – the basic element of English intonation.

Tones are divided into two classes: static and kinetic. Static are level tones, their number corresponds to the number of pitch levels. Kinetic tones are classified according to the following criteria:

a) the direction of the pitch change;

b) the interval of the pitch change;

c) the relative position of the pitch change within the speaker’s voice range.

Static and kinetic tones differ not only in form but also in function. Static tones give prominence to words. The degree of prominence is proportional to the pitch height of the static tone – the higher the tone, the greater the prominence. Kinetic tones are more significant for the sentence.

Kinetic tones perform a number of functions in a sentence:

1. Indicate the communicative type of a sentence.

2. Express the emotional state of the speaker, his attitude towards the subject-matter and the situation.

3. Single out the centre of semantic importance in a sentence.

The most common kinetic tones of Modern English are:

The Low Fall – the voice falls from a medium to a very low pitch.

The Low Rise – the voice rises from a low to a medium pitch.

The High Fall – the voice falls from a high to a very low pitch.

The High Rise – the voice rises from a medium to a high pitch.

The Fall-Rise – the voice first falls from a fairly high to a rather low pitch and then rises to a medium pitch.

The Rise-Fall – the voice first rises from a medium to a high pitch and then falls to a very low pitch.

The falling tones carry a sense of completion and finality and are categoric in character. The rising tones carry incompletion and are non-categoric in character.

Combinations of nuclei, heads, tails, and pre-heads lead to a great variety of melodic patterns in English intonation. The melodic structure of the language is a simple system of patterns based upon the most important linguistic functions of intonation. Since the most significant component of intonation is speech melody, and the most important word of an utterance is made prominent by one of the special tones typical of the language, it is natural to systematize the melodic patterns according to these special tones. Thus the great variety of possible patterns can be reduced to six Intonation Contours (IC), based on the six main tones used in the nuclei. These tones, when combined with different heads, tails and pre-heads, give rise to a few significative variants of the intonation contour.


One of the basic problems in the study of prosody is to determine the units in which prosodic features are actualized.

The syllable is widely recognized to be the smallest prosodic unit. It has no meaning of its own, but it is significant for constituting higher prosodic units. Prosodic features of the syllable (tone, stress, dura­tion) depend on its position and function in the rhythmic unit and in the ut­terance.

A rhythmic, or accentual, unit (or group) is either one stressed syllable or a stressed syllable with a number of unstressed ones grouped around it.

The stressed syllable is the nucleus of the rhythmic unit. There are as many rhythmic units in an utterance as there are stressed syllables in it. The unstressed syllables are clitics . Those preceding the stressed syllable are called proclitics, and those following it — enclitics.

The rhythmic group is characterized by a pitch pattern (or tonal contour) and duration pattern (temporal struc­ture). These prosodic characteristics make it possible to perceive the rhyth­mic unit as an actual discrete unit of prosody.

The 'brighter \ they are the| better.

The intonation group is higher than the rhythmic unit. It has also been termed "syntagm", "sense—group", "breath—group", "intonation contour", "divisible accentual unit", "tone—group", "tune", "tone-unit".

The term "syntagm" has a drawback: it is often used with different meanings which have nothing to do with the prosodic unit under considera­tion. I.Baudouin de Courtenay applied the term "syntagm" for a word used in a sentence in contradistinction to a word taken as a lexical unit ("a lexeme"). F. de Saussure used this term to mean two or more linguistic elements joined together: two successive morphemes or two elements of a compound word or a noun with an attribute. L.V. Shcherba defined the syntagm in the following way: "The phonetic entity, which expresses a semantic entity in the process of speaking (and thinking) and which may consist either of one rhythmic group or of a number of such groups".

The term "sense—group" calls attention to the fact that it is a group of words that make sense when put together. But it doesn't indicate its intonational character.

The term "breath—group" emphasizes the physiological aspect of the unit, which is uttered with a single breath. A breath—group usually coincides with a sense-group because "pauses for breath are normally made at points where pauses are necessary or allowable from the point of view of meaning". But a pause for breath may be made after two or more sense—groups are uttered, so a breath—group may not coincide with a sense—group.

The term "divisible accentual unit" emphasizes the role of utterance stress in constituting the unit. The divisible accentual unit may consist of several indivisible accentual units (rhythmic units).

The terms "tone—group", "tune", "tone—unit" also emphasize the role of just one (pitch) component of prosody for the formation of the unit.

The term "intonation group" better reflects the es­sence of this unit. It shows that the intonation group is the result of the division in which 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 (i.e. pitch variations on the nucleus and the tail if any). The boundaries between intonation groups are marked by tonal junctures and pauses. All these features shape the intonation group, delimit one intonation group from another and show its relative semantic importance.

The intonation group is a meaningful unit. The most general meanings expressed by the intonation group are, for instance, those of completeness, finality versus incompleteness, non—finality.

It may be coextensive with a sentence or part of a sentence. E.g. Yester­day | they 'passed their exam. They 'passed the exam yesterday.

The structure of the intonation group varies depending on the number of syllables and rhythmic units in it. Minimally, an intonation group consists of one (stressed) syllable — the nucleus. Maximally, it contains the prehead, the head, the nucleus and the tail. H.Palmer was the first to single out the consecutive structural elements of the intonation group ("tone—group") — "head" (scale), "nucleus" and "tail".

The functional role of some of these elements is indisputable. The most conspicuous is the functional role of the nucleus: its prosodic features express communicative and attitudinal meanings, indicate the end of the intonation group. Different types of head (scale) convey attitudinal meanings. Types of prehead differentiate emotional meanings.

But whether the first stressed syllable of an intonation group plays a functional role or not is a moot point. Auditory observations and the analysis of acoustic data show that pitch characteristics attributed to the first stressed syllable are actually characteristic of the unstressed syllables following it. For instance, the effect of the rising tone on the first stressed syllable is frequently conditioned by the higher pitch of the following unstressed syllables.

It seems more consistent to treat the first stressed syllable as part of the functional whole — the scale or head (in the broad sense), admitting its role as the onset that determines the pitch movement within the intonation group.

It is also disputable that the tail is an independent functional element of the intonation group, since its pitch variations are determined by the nuclear tone.

The "prehead", "head" and "tail" are non—obligatory elements of an into­nation group, whereas the nucleus is an obligatory and the most important functional element.

A higher unit in which prosodic features are actualized is the ut­terance. 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. Each utterance has a definite prosodic structure which may be coextensive with a sentence (a formal grammatical structure), or with a word combination, or with a word.

|     Count on| Jane's ability.


The utterance may contain one intonation group, two or more. E.g. 'Listening is an important 'process in 'learning a language. Besides the auditory 'process| there are/speaking| reading| and writing of the language. Irrespective of its structural complexity, the prosodic structure of the utterance is viewed as a single semantic entity.

The utterance is not the ultimate unit of prosodic analysis. In speech single utterances are not very frequent. On the contrary, they are connected and grouped into still larger units — hyperutterances, phonetic paragraphs and texts. The prosodic features of these higher units indicate the relations between their constituents, the degree of their connectedness and inter­dependence, thus forming the prosodic structures of the hyperutterances, the phonetic paragraphs and texts. The study of these units in modern linguistics is in the forefront of scholars' interest.

To summarize, it is necessary to note, that the syllable, the rhythmic unit, the intonation group, the utterance and the hyperutterance are taxonomical prosodic units: each higher unit consists of one or more units below it. Whereas the elements of the intonation group, considered above, i.e. prehead, head, nucleus and tail, are autonomous units, they are not related taxonomically.


Lecture 6



You know that the intonation is a complex unity of speech melody, sentence stress, tempo, rhythm and voice timbre, which enables the speaker to express his thoughts, emotions and attitudes to­wards the contents of the utterance and the hearer. So any utterance possesses definite phonetic features: variations of pitch or speech melody, pauses, sentence stress, rhythm, tempo and timbre. Each feature performs a definite task and all of them work simultaneously.

The pitch, or speech melody is the variations in the pitch of the voice which take place with voiced sounds. Acoustically, speech melody is the variations of the fundamental frequen­cy, generated by the vibrations of the vocal cords.

To describe the melody of an utterance it is necessary to determine the relevant pitch levels, pitch ranges, directions and rate of pitch movement in intonation groups.

1. The pitch level of the whole utterance (or intonation group) is de­termined by the pitch of its highest—pitched syllable. It shows the degree of semantic importance the speaker attaches to the utterance in comparison with any other utterance, and also the speaker's attitude and emotions.

The pitch of the voice does not stay on the same level while the sentence is pronounced. It falls and rises within the interval between its lower and upper limits. Three pitch levels are generally distinguished: high, medium and low.

high medium low

The pitch of the voice rises and falls on the vowels and voiced consonants. These falls and rises form definite patterns typical of English and are called speech melody.

2. Pitch Range is the interval between two pitch levels. It may be normal, wide and narrow.


E.g. I didn’t know you’ve been to London.

The use of this or that pitch (and range) shows the degree of its semantic importance. As a rule the low pitch level expresses little semantic weight, on the contrary the high pitch level is a sign of importance, stronger degree of feeling.


The rate of pitch variations may be different depending
on the time, during which these variations take place, and on the range of the

The basic unit used to describe the pitch component is the tone. De­pending on whether the pitch of the voice varies or remains unvaried tones are subdivided into kinetic and static (or level). Static tones may have dif­ferent pitch level of the voice — the high static tone, the mid static tone, the low static tone. The differentiation of kinetic tones as High Fall and Low Fall, High Rise, Low Rise, Fall-Rise, Rise-Fall is also based on the differentiation of the pitch level of their initial and final points.

As to the direction of pitch movement, kinetic tones are subdivided into simple and complex. Simple tones are unidirectional: the falling and the rising tones. Complex tones are bidirectional: the falling—rising tone, the rising-falling tone.

The most important from the functional point of view is the terminal t о n e of an utterance. It may occur not only on the "nucleus" but may be extended to the
"tail". In other words, the carrier of the terminal tone is not only the stressed syllable, but its enclitics as well.

The terminal tone conveys certain meanings of its own which make the whole utterance more concrete and precise. The meanings of the fal­ling tone, for example, are definiteness, completeness, finality, certainty, etc. The meanings of the rising tone are those of indefiniteness, incompleteness, non—finality, uncertainty. The falling—rising tone carries the meaning of reservation, implication, contrast etc.

Due to its linguistic meanings and the functions that it performs in speech the terminal tone can be treated as a phonological unit in the structure of a language —a toneme.


Rhythm is a regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed syllables at definite intervals.

The characteristic features of English speech rhythm may be summed up as follows:

1. The regularity of the recurrence of stressed and unstressed syllables results in the pronunciation of each rhythmic group in a sense-group in the same period of time irrespective to the number of unstressed syllables in it. Which in its turn influences the length of sounds, especially vowels.

2. The alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables results in the influence of rhythm upon word-stress and sentence-stress.

There are as many rhythmical groups in a sense-group as there are stressed syllables. Rhythmic groups can be of two types:

· enclitics – a rhythmic group in which an unstressed syllable clings to the preceding stressed syllable.

· proclitics – a rhythmic group in which an unstressed syllable clings to the following stressed syllable.


The tempo of speech is the rate at which utterances and their smaller units are pronounced. On the acoustic level tempo is generally measured by the number of syllables per second.

Tempo of speech may be determined by different factors. It may vary de­pending on the size of audience, the acoustic qualities of the room, the indi­viduality of the speaker and other extralinguistic factors. But most signifi­cant for the linguistic study is how variations in tempo correlate with changes in meaning.

It is common knowledge that by slowing down the tempo of speech we can make an utterance or part of it more prominent, thus underlining the se­mantic importance of it. On the contrary, by increasing the speed of utterance we diminish promi­nence and, as a result the actual semantic importance of what we say.

Tempo can also be used to express the speaker's attitude or emotion. For example, fast tempo may express excitement, joy, anger, etc. Slow tempo shows relaxation or calmness, reserved and phlegmatic attitude on the part of the speaker.

Phoneticians generally distinguish normal tempo and two de­partures from the norm: fast and slow.


Speech is divided into units of different length by means of pauses. It is the main function of a pause to segment connected speech into utterances and intonation groups, to delimit one utterance or intonation group from another. Pauses are closely related with tempo: the number and length of pauses affect the general tempo of speech.

Phoneticians distinguish 3 main types of pauses: silent pauses, pauses of perception and voiced (or filled) pauses.

A silent pause is a stop in the phonation (a stop of the work of the vocal cords, which results in the cessation of sound). Silent pauses are subdivided into several types according to their length: short, long and extra—long. The short pause is mainly used to separate two in­tonation groups. The long pause which is approximately twice as long is gene­rally used to delimit two utterances. The extra—long pause is used as a rule to separate two paragraphs. But the main factors that determine the occurrence of the type of pause are the semantic relations between the prosodic units. Short pauses indicate closer relations than long ones.

Pauses of perception are not a stop in phonation, as there is no period of silence. The effect of a pause is produced by a sharp change of pitch direction, or by variations in duration, or both.

Voiced pauses are used to signal hesitation or doubt and are therefore called hesitation pauses (er, mm).

Pauses are very important constituents of intonation. Besides their segmentative and delimitative functions they also perform a unifying function showing the relations between utterances or intonation groups.



Lecture 8 Word Stress

 Nature of word stress. According to A.C.Gimson, the effect of prominence is achieved by any or all of four factors - Force, tone, length, and vowel colour. The articulation of the stressed syllable greater muscular energy is produced by the speaker.
The English linguists D.Crystal, A.C.Gimson agree that in English word stress or accent is a complex phenomenon, marked by the variations in force, pitch, quantity and quality.
- When the tonic or musical component of word stress is involved it is the change of pitch level that is significant in making the syllable prominent, but not the type of tone direction.
If the words *import and im*port are said on a level tone and each vowel with its own length, it is rather difficult to distinguish them. The tonic or musical component may be helpful in defining the place of stress in a word, as it is observed within the syllable marked by the pitch change, which contributes to the syllable prominence.
- Quantitative and qualitative components of word stress. Certain distinctions of the vowel length and color are reduced or lacking in unstressed syllables. The fact strengthens the idea that the accentuation is influenced by the vowel length and quality. The vowel of the stressed syllable is perceived (пронимать, различать) as never reduced or obscure (непонятный) and longer than the same vowel in the unstressed syllables. Thus the word *stress* or *accent* is also defined as qualitative where the vowel color or quality is a means of stress and quantitative with relatively increased length of the stressed vowel. Compare the quality (colour) and quantity (length) of the same vowel in a word e.g. ab*stract,*car-park.
In English the quantitative component of word stress is not of primary importance because of the non-reduced vowels in the unstressed syllables which sometimes occur in English words, e.g. *architect, *transport, *partake.
Languages are also differentiated according to the placement of word stress. There are fixed stress (on the same syllable) and free stress (on different syllables). In languages with a fixed stress the occurrence of the word stress is limited to a particular syllable in a multisyllabic word. In languages with a free stress it is place not confined to a specific position in the word. On one word it may fall on the first syllable, in another on the second syllable, in the third word- on the last syllable, etc.
English: *appetite-be*ginning- ba*lloon
There are three degrees of stress: primary, secondary and weak - it is British variant. The American linguists B. Bloch and G.Trager find four contrastive degrees of word stress, namely: loud, reduced loud, medial and weak stresses.
Characteristics of English stress:
1) Recessive tendency – the word stress originally fell on the initial syllable or the second syllable, e.g. foresee, begin, apart, withdraw.
2) Rhythmical tendency - primary stress on the third syllable from the end
e.g. revo*lution, organi*sation, as*similation.
3) Retentive tendency- the stress in the derivative, words have stress on the same syllable with it*s original or parent word. *similar – as*similate; ,recom’mend -,recommen’dation
The word stress in English is not only free, but it may also be shifting, performing the semantic function of differentiating lexical units, parts of speech, grammatical forms. It is noteworthy that in English word stress is used as a means of word-building.
*contrast – con*trast; *music – mu*sician; *habit – ha*bitual

Word stress of a language performs three functions.
1. Constitutive - it organizes the syllables a word into a language unit having a definite accentual structure, function.
2. Identificatory (or recognitive) - it helps to identify a different combinations of sounds into meaningful linguistic units
3. Distinctive - differentiate the meaning of words or their forms. import — imp’ort; ‘billow — be''low.

Sentence stress


A separate word when used alone as a sentence is always stressed. In a sentence consisting of more than one word, some of the words are left unstressed. They are the words of small semantic value or those with a purely grammatical function: articles, prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary, modal and link verbs, personal and reflective pronouns.

Words essential to the meaning of the utterance are normally stressed (nouns, adjectives, notional verbs, adverbs, demonstrative and interrogative pronouns). So words that provide most of the information are singled out by means of sentence stress.

Sentence stress is a greater prominence with which one or more words are in a sentence are pronounced as compared with the other words according to their informational (semantic) importance.

This greater prominence is achieved by:

1. Greater force of exhalation and muscular tension.

2. Changing of the pitch level.

3. Pronouncing the stressed syllables longer.

4. Not changing the quality of a vowel in the stressed syllable.

The most important piece of information conveyed in the sentence is called its communicative centre. It may be expressed by a single word or a number of words. Usually it is the last word in a sense-group and it carries the terminal tone.

The main function of sentence stress is to single out the communicative centre of the sentence, which introduces new information. So it performs a distinctive function and distinguished the speaker’s modal and emotional attitude to the words.

Sentence stress may vary in degree. It may be full and partial. Full sentence stress in its turn may be unemphatic and emphatic.

1) Partial sentence stress is indicated by single stress-marks places below the line of print. E. g. I haven’t the slightest idea.

2) Full unemphatic sentence stress is indicated by single stress-marks placed above the line of print. E. g. I haven’t the slightest idea.

3) Full emphatic sentence stress is effected by greater force of utterance, greater force of exhalation and lengthening the sounds. Emphatically stresses syllables become more prominent and sound longer than syllables with unemphatic stress. It is indicated by double stress-marks. E.g. Stop talking!

Sentence stress can also be subdivided as to its function into syntagmatic stress, syntactic stress and logical stress.

Syntagmatic stress presents the most important functional type. Together with the main tones it singles out the semantic centre of the sentence or a sense-group. In sentences where no word is made specially prominent syntagmatic stress is usually realized in the last stressed word.

E. g. I am sending you two tickets for the theatre.


Syntactic (or normal) stress marks the other semantically important words within the utterance.

E. g. I am sending you two tickets for the theatre.

Logical stress is connected with the shifting of the syntagmatic stress from its normal place on the last stressed word to one of the preceding words. It often expresses something new to the listener and creates a new communicative centre.


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