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Intonation is the “music” or “melody” of speech. It’s the way the pitch or sound of a person’s voice rises and falls while speaking.
How is it Used in Speech?
When someone raises or lowers their pitch while speaking, it can mean different things:
- A raised or rising pitch means:
*The speaker is changing subjects.
*The speaker is taking over from another speaker.
- A much higher or lower pitch on a word/phrase:
*It’s the focus of the speaker’s message.
*The speaker is feeling a strong emotion, like excited or angry.
Common English Intonation Patterns
There are three main intonation patterns in English: falling, rising, and fall-rise.
1) Falling Intonation ➘
- Indicates something is definite or complete
- The pitch falls on the last stressed syllable of a phrase.
Here’s your wallet.
I can’t find it.
- Common in wh- questions
What time is the movie?
Where’s your teacher?
2) Rising Intonation ➚
- Common in yes/no questions
- The pitch rises on the last stressed syllable of a phrase / group of words.
Are you happy?
Is that your teacher?
3) Fall-Rise Intonation ➘➚
- Something is incomplete or uncertain.
- There’s more to be said.
I don’t play soccer.
(This implies that something more is coming, and that maybe I play something else, as in “I don’t play soccer. I play tennis.”)
My first day was great.
(This implies that perhaps the second day was not great, and that something more is coming.)
- In questions: Makes them more friendly or polite.
What’s your name?
Is this your purse?
Improve your pronunciation
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