Basic rules of intonation of the English language with examples

in this article, we will elaborate on the basic rules of intonation of the English language with examples.

Intonation in English

Intonation (intonation English) is a sequential increase or decrease in the voice. With the help of intonation, you can give a sentence a semantic load and emotional expression to a word or expression. With the right intonation, you can create a positive emotional background during communication.

Importance of Intonation

Starting to learn English, beginners often concentrate on mastering vocabulary and grammar, and leave phonetics “for later.” Meanwhile, intonation also plays a very important role in communication in English. It consists of many aspects: tempo, timbre, rhythm, phrasal and logical stress, voice melody. All this set of characteristics helps to build different types of sentences (narrative, interrogative, and incentive), highlight the main thing in a sentence, express emotions, show attitude to what was said, and so on.

Most importantly, the pace and intonation can affect how you are perceived. You have probably already heard many times that the non-verbal in a live dialogue is even more important than what you say, and the role of intonation in this proportion reaches 30%. And if you are in trouble with your intonation, this problem can ruin your interview or date, and others will consider you a less pleasant interlocutor.

Of course, at the initial stage of learning, it is easier to do this using lexical and grammatical means, but the better you speak, the more is expected of you. In addition, it is important not only to express your thoughts but also to understand the interlocutor. Therefore, paying attention to the speaker’s intonation is very important: if you do not catch doubt or disapproval in his speech, this can lead to misunderstanding

Modern experts in the study of English as a foreign language suggest not to go into all the details and subtleties of English phonetics because it is very difficult and impractical to achieve full compliance with the pronunciation of “native speakers”.

Yes, indeed, it would be strange on our part to say that pronunciation is a key skill in English. Many native speakers, including celebrities, speak in different specific accents, and pronunciation can be very different. Therefore, it is okay if your pronunciation is not perfect.

However, it is recommended that you be aware of those aspects that differ in English and your native language and affect the overall meaning of the statement. Such important points include the speech melody with which the sentence is pronounced. Hone this skill is easy, but it will sound a lot more natural.

Functions of intonation in English

Firstly, intonation, in addition to the verbal, also conveys an additional meaning of what was said, as well as the person’s mood, his attitude both to the interlocutor and to the issue under discussion.

By intonation, you can determine how polite a person is, interested in communication, inspired or annoyed, etc. Also, depending on the intonation, the meaning of the statement itself may change.

Everyone knows the example:

“you cannot execute, you cannot pardon,” which can be pronounced with different intonation and it turns out “execute, you cannot have mercy.”

Secondly, intonation plays a role as part of the overall impression – in international exams, intonation also affects the Speaking score. The parameter “fluency” (fluency) is taken into account – intonation is an integral part of it.

Basic rules of intonation of the English language

Let’s start with what intonation consists of. Its main components are:

  • the melody of speech, which is carried out by raising or lowering the voice in a phrase (compare the pronunciation of a declarative and an interrogative sentence);
  • the rhythm of speech, i.e. alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables;
  • pace, i.e. speed or slowness of speech + pauses between speech segments (compare speech with slow and speech with a tongue twister);
  • timbre , i.e. sound coloration, giving speech certain emotional and expressive shades (timbre “cheerful”, “playful”, “gloomy”, etc.);
  • phrasal and logical stress, which serves as a means of highlighting individual words in a sentence.

As already mentioned, in English, the main tone is at the end of a sentence. It helps to express the proposal as a request, statement, question, or order.

In English, intonation is divided into 2 types: ascending (Rise)  – raising the voice upwards and descending (Fall)   – lowering downwards

Descending intonation in English is used in the following cases:

Narration. Sentences that communicate information. The intonation goes down.

This is a (voice down) dog.

Categorical statements. With a lower voice.

Of (voice down) course.

Orders and categorical proposals. The intonation is also downward.

Let’s (voice down) go.

Special questions. Lower voice.

What’s your (voice down) name?

In an exclamation point. Lower intonation.

How (voice down) interesting!

Ascending intonation can be heard in sentences like this:

General issues. Raise our voice a little.

Do you like reading (voice up) books?

Farewell. Pronounced with a raise.

Good bye !

A request in the form of a question is pronounced with an increasing intonation.

Can I open the (voice up) door?

Request and polite suggestions. Raising your voice.

Come in!

After introductory words and adverbs at the beginning of a sentence.

Sometimes (voice up) I read books.

A sign of ascending intonation is uncategorical, in some cases even incomplete statement.

Descending intonation usually descends with a ladder after each group of words in a sentence.

Fall-Rise Intonation

Fall-Rise”, as the name implies, consists of two elements: falling and raising the voice. Sometimes this happens within one sound (this is the most difficult for a Russian-speaking person to portray, but with practice, this skill comes):

No (fall). Well (rise) …

It is much easier to pronounce a sentence if “fall” and “rise” are in adjacent syllables:

All right. I will.

Finally, such situations are possible when “fall” and “rise” are separated by several unstressed syllables:

It was n’t really ne cessary …

Here, the first highlighted syllable is pronounced with a decrease and the second with an increase in tone

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