intonation– the rising and falling sounds of the voice when speaking.Language conveys very specific information, such as how to get somewhere or what someone is doing. It can be also used beyond the exact meaning of the words to indicate how the speaker feels about what he is saying, or how he personally feels at that moment.
Generally speaking, if English is not your first language, this is where you start running into difficulty. Even if you pronounce each word clearly, if your intonation patterns are non-standard, your meaning will probably not be clear. Also, in terms of comprehension, you will lose a great deal of information if you are listening for the actual words used.
This is the starting point of standard intonation. When we say that we need to stress the new information, it’s logical to think, “Hmmm, this is the first time I’m saying this sentence, so it’s all new information. I’d better stress every word.” Well, not quite. In standard English, we consider that the nouns carry the weight of a sentence, when all else is equal. Although the verb carries important information, it does not receive the primary stress of a first-time noun. Dogs eat bones.After the information has been introduced, or is being repeated through the use of pronouns, the intonation shifts over to the verb. Notice how the intonation changes when a sentence changes from nouns to pronouns:Dogs eat bones.
They eat them.
Check Your UnderstandingMultiple Choice. Choose the best answer. Check your answers below.
1. Language can tell us…
a. how a speaker feels about what he is saying
b. how a speaker feels at the moment he is speaking
c. both of the above
2. If your intonation patterns are not standard…
a. everyone will understand you
b. your meaning will probably not be clear
c. neither of the above
3. What is usually stressed in a sentence?
a. every word
4. After the nouns have been introduced and we begin using pronouns, which words are usually stressed?
Check Your Answers 1-c 2-b 3-b 4-a