Unit 15 Functions & Uses of English Intonation Xu Dehua Functions and Uses of English Intonation Intonation and stress work together to express meaning. Intonation makes it easier for a listener to understand what a speaker is trying to convey. The following are often cited as important functions of English intonation: a. the attitudinal function; b. the accentual function; c. the grammatical function; d. the discourse function of intonation. The attitudinal function Intonation is used to convey our feelings and attitudes. For instance, the same sentence can be said in different ways, to express happiness, gratitude, anger, boredom, etc. Usually, intonation units with high heads sound more lively and interesting than those with low heads. A few generalizations can be made here: the falling intonation is said to be more often associated with completeness and uncertainty or questioning; the falling-rising is said to be associated with feeling of hesitation, contrast, reservation or doubt. The accentual function The location of the tonic syllable is of considerable linguistic importance. The most common position for this is on the last information word of the intonation unit. For contrastive purposes, however, any word may bear the tonic syllable. The grammatical function Some sentences may be ambiguous when written, but this can be removed by the use of intonation. An often cited example is the sentence “Those who sold quickly made a profit”. This sentence can be said at least two different ways: a. / `Those who `sold quickly/`made a profit. b. / `Those who sold / `quickly `made a profit. English speakers hear two different paraphrases of the sentences because of the different placement of the tone-unit boundary, as in: a. A profit was made by those who sold quickly. b. A profit was quickly made by those who sold. The discourse function of intonation In speech, people often use intonation to focus the listener’s attention on aspects of the message that are most important. So the placement of uncleus or tonic stress depends on the “information content”: the more predictable a word’s occurrence is in a given context, the lower its information content is. For example, people would say: The telephone’s ringing. The kettle’s boiling. In speech, people often use the falling tone to indicate new information and rising tone ( including falling-rising) to indicate “shared” of “given” information. People also use intonation to indicate to others that they have finished speaking and that another person is expected to speak. Combined Tunes In reading and speaking, one sentence may consist of one or more tunes. Some tunes are often combined. Many combinations are possible . The following are six common patterns: I. Fall + Fall 1. It’s a fine day, isn’t it? 2. I went to the bookstore and bought a new dictionary. 3. It’s a long time since I saw you last. 4. We arrived late, which was a serious mistake. 5. I tried to work faster, but I just couldn’t catch up with him. II. Fall + Rise 1. You’ve been to Beijing, haven’t you? 2. It’s a good book, on the whole. 3. Come at 8:30 if you can. III. Rise + Fall 1. Are you from the south or from the north? 2. At ten in the morning, the parade began. 3. If we work harder, we shall be able to fulfil the plan ahead of time. 4. One, two, three, four, five. 5. I hope there will be some poems and plays. 6. This is the man I saw yesterday. 7. I must be off now, for my family is expecting me. IV. Rise + Rise 1. Do you know Dr. Liu, the famous surgeon? 2. In that case, is it possible for us to meet next week? 3. If he is free, will you please ask him to come to the meeting? 4. Have you met my daughter, who has just returned from America? 1. 2. 3. 1. V. Fall + Fall-rise I can’t do it just at the moment. I will if you can. It costs more, but it’s very useful. VI. Fall-rise + Fall Taken as a whole, the results aren’t bad. 1. The more I thought about it, the less I liked it. 2. These are mine, and those are yours. VII. Fall-rise + Rise 1. It costs more, doesn’t it? 2. You will never succeed unless you try harder.