Teachers' blog



(Contributed by Mike)
If you’ve taken my lessons before, you might have heard me talk about intonation, and how in English we usually put the intonation on the most important information in the sentence. While that’s mostly true, it’s a bit of an oversimplification (過度の単純化). So let’s dig a little deeper.
John Wells (http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/), a professor emeritus at University College London, describes intonation as having six pragmatic functions. When we speak, the way we say something has as much meaning as the words themselves. It’s a hidden message, and it’s perhaps the hardest thing to master in any language because it’s so deeply connected to culture and society.
For language learners the first three are the most important, so I’ll focus on these.
1. Intonation is used for emotions or attitudes. Say “good morning” to yourself. Now say “good morning”. Really put a strong emphasis (強調) on [mor]. Which one sounds more excited or happy?
2. Intonation is used to show grammar. In writing, when we see a question mark (?) at the end of sentence, we know that sentence is a question. But when we speak, we use intonation instead. Say “you’re leaving”. Now say “you’re leaving↗”. Put a rising intonation on [leaving]. The first phrase is just a statement. The second one is clearly a question because of the rising intonation.
3. Intonation is used to show us what’s new information. “I saw Jim yesterday” has a different meaning than “I saw Jim yesterday”. If I ask you “Who did you see?”, then for me, [Jim] is new information; I knew you saw someone, but I didn’t know who. If I ask “When did you see Jim?”. then for me [yesterday] is new information; I knew you saw Jim, but I didn’t know when.
In my next post, I’ll talk about how intonation in words can change the meaning.
Information from this post taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_(linguistics), accessed on April 23rd 2015.

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