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New trends in English intonation. "Are you asking me or are you telling me?" was the title of the paper written about fifty years ago.

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"Are you asking me or are you telling me?" was the title of the paper written about fifty years ago.

Contrary to the general expectations some speakers of English use a rising tonein statements and wh-questions. Alan Cruttenden (1968) com­mented on the Northern Irish incidence of a rise in statements calling his paper "the myth of a fall". Australian young people also tend to raise their pitch at the end of statements. And, finally, there are similar cases of rises men­tioned by J.C. Wells (1982), D. Bolinger (1998) and D.R. Ladd (1996), all concerning American speech.

This is what David Crystal writes in "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language": "Why is it used? Why should a statement end with an intonation pattern which would normally be associated with the func­tion of a question?" (Crystal 1995:249). The author then presents the findings of a sociolinguistic study in Australia and New Zealand (based on D. Britain & J. Newman 1992):

• Women used it twice as much as men.

• Teenagers used it 10 times more often than people over 20, and peo­ple in the 20-30 age group used it 5 times as much as those over 70.

• Working-class people used it three times as much as middle-class people.

Ethnic minorities used it 2 to 3 times more often than members of the majority group. Maori speakers, for example, used it up to 50 per cent more than Europeans.

Many authors suggest the following explanation:

high rising tone is used as a nat­ural and widespread feature of conversational interaction. A speaker might introduce it for any of several discourse reasons — as an infor­mal check to see if the listener has understood, as a request for empa­thy or some other form of feedback, or even as an indication that the speaker has not yet finished speaking (Crystal 1995:249).

D.R. Ladd also views the incidence of a rise as an asking-for-feedback device. Ladd claims that the speaker is making a statement but at the same time is asking for feedback from the listener, as if asking "Do you follow me?"

Two other contexts are transaction-openers and answers to WH-questions:

A: I have an appointment with DrMac,millan. B: What's your ,name ? A: William Jarvis.

In both A's opener and his reply to WH-question, the rising intona­tion means something like Are you expecting me?

But! According to D.R. Ladd , this use is typical of North American and Australian varieties only and to the British it sounds wheedling or insistent.

A specific case is the intonation typically used in statements in "Urban North British" (UNB) English. UNB is the cover term produced by Cruttenden for the varieties of English spoken in Belfast and Glasgow (and Northern Ireland and Western Scotland generally). Intonationally, the characteristic of these varieties is that the ordinary intonation on state­ments is rising or rising-falling (Knowles 1974; Cruttenden 1986).

As Cruttenden makes clear, the UNB rises are not the same as the rises used in North America or Australian English on statements re­questing feedback. In UNB the rise is not, as in American and Australian English, basically a question tune being used to add a nuance to a statement, but rather the ordinary way to pronounce a statement.

Phonetically, the UNB rise on the accented syllable is usually followed by a distinct fall, some­times but not often all the way to the bottom of the speaker's range.


What is the strategy of the student facing the difficulty of tone selection?

The answer is to observe and make your own choice. T.I.Shevchenko used the script of the film "Bridget Jones's Diary" with the intonation notation marked by an expert in English phonetics. The aim was to see which tones are actually used in Yes-No questions. The results are as follows: 68% end in a rise and 32% end in a fall. Among the rising tones half are pure rises and half are fall-rises. Men and women practically intone their questions identically. Thus we have found that the rising pattern in a question still prevails (68%)but statistically the initial options of a rise, a fall-rise and a falldistribute evenly:each accounts for a third of the cases (around 33%).

Among the WH-questions the basic falling tone dominates even more impressively: 88% falls vs. 12% rise. Here women slightly go ahead of men in using rise-ending tones by 7%.




1. Define the terms “prosody” and “intonation “. Formulate the principles by which prosody and intonation are differentiated. What is the essence of broad and narrow approaches to intonation?

2. Describe the acoustic aspect of speech prosody. How are prosodic features of speech measured?

3. What are the functions of intonation?

4. What are the functions of prosody?

5. Compare and contrast the prosodic bases of the Russian and English languages.

6. What are the new trends in English intonation?


1.Divide the text into intonation groups:


I saw by the clock of the city jail that it was past eleven, so I decided to go to the newspaper immediately. Outside the editor's door I stopped to make sure my pages were in the right order; I smoothed them out carefully, stuck them back in my pocket, and knocked. I could hear my heart thumping as I walked in.

2. What functions of intonation are illustrated by the following examples?

а) Her sister, / said Mary, was a 'well-known actress.
Her 'sister said / 'Mary was a 'well-known actress.

b) What about this money? — 'Lock it 'up in the safe.

'Lock it 'up in the safe.


c) I've been to London. Have you?

Have you ?

Have you?

Have you ?

d) We 'laid money by, / every penny we ,could, / to 'see 'some of 'Spain.

3. Read the following text in two ways: (a) using high pitch register and broad pitch range and (b) using low pitch register and narrow pitch range in the final phrase. How is the meaning of the text affected by such changes in intonation?

Meteorologists selected the date of Queen Elisabeth's Coronation as 2 June 1953, because it was said to be the day when there was consistently no rain. It rained.


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