Teachers' blog

2015年5月24日(日)

【Intonation 2】

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(Contributed by Mike)

Intonation 2: great, great, great
In my last post, I talked about the pragmatic functions that intonation can have in a sentence. This time I’d like to talk about how intonation can change the meaning in a word.

If the title looks strange, that’s good! The word [great], when said with a different intonation, can have different meanings.

Before we start, we have to understand some basics. Most North American English is spoken at a middle pitch (音の高さ). When we ask question, the pitch becomes high. When we are excited, the pitch becomes very high. We use a low pitch at the end of most sentences.

So let’s look at the word great. When we use this word alone, and not part of a sentence, we can use intonation to give some extra meaning.

If we start the word [great] with a very high intonation, it has a meaning that I’m excited!
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If we start the word [great] with a middle intonation, it has a meaning that say I’m not really excited or unexcited; it’s just something I’m saying because it’s a formality (形式的), or I’m not really listening.
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If we start the word [great] with a low intonation, it has the opposite meaning! I don’t think it’s great, and I’m using this word sarcastically (皮肉を込めて).

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For a good example of how intonation can change the meaning, watch this short comedy video by the Canadian comedy group The Kids in the Hall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziH9St7ajuw&feature=player_embedded
The man in the suit (Dave) does not have proper intonation (it’s a speech impediment, or 発話障害). The man in the sweater (Derek) doesn’t know that. The comedy comes Derek’s reaction to Dave, but in a different situation (for example, if this scene wasn’t part of a comedy show), this situation might even be scary!

Information from this post taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_(linguistics), accessed on April 23rd 2015.

 
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