Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Ryan: Hi everyone, Ryan here. Intonation.
Chihiro: Hi everyone, thanks for joining us again, I'm Chihiro and today, we're going to talk about the importance of intonation.
Ryan: Now before we talk about how English intonation works, let's talk about what intonation is... so, what is it?
Chihiro: It's the rise and fall of your voice when you speak. We use intonation in many, if not all, languages, and it can convey meaning, express emotion, or even establish whether the sentence is a statement or a question. Without the correct intonation, English may sound unnatural, and it can be the cause of some misunderstandings.
Ryan: So in other words, pronunciation and stress are very important in English, but intonation is what conveys feeling and the thoughts of the speaker besides what they are saying.
Chihiro: Exactly, even if you have great pronunciation and grammar, without the proper intonation, your speech might sound a little lifeless.
Ryan: Now, we'll be talking about as usual American English pronunciation. Like we've mentioned before, a variety of Englishes means a variety of intonations as well.
Chihiro: So you might hear a variety of ups and downs depending on the type of English you hear. But here we'll be talking about General American.
Ryan: Let's take a look at how intonation works by listening to different sample sentences. Chihiro, give us a sentence.
Chihiro: "This is a clean floor."
Ryan: Now, by the way she said it, with a downward intonation on "floor," I know that it was a statement, a fact that the floor is clean. As a matter of fact, this is a neutral way of saying the sentence, in that if she read the sentence from a book with no other information, then most likely this is how she would pronounce it. However, if she says it like this,
Chihiro: "This is a clean floor?"
Ryan: With an upward intonation, then her statement just became a question, asking whether or not the floor is clean. We know by her intonation that she doesn't know whether the floor is clean or not, and that's why she's asking. Now if she says it with a stronger questioning intonation,
Chihiro: "This is a clean floor"
Ryan: Then it sounds sarcastic as opposed to a statement or a question. In that case we know that she's not only questioning whether or not the floor is clean, but she sounds as though she's doubting that it is clean.
Chihiro: As you can see with those sentences, the intonation is important in conveying what you want to say. It expresses the attitude of the person talking and therefore can change the whole feel of a sentence.
Ryan: Yes, even single words can change in meaning when said in different intonations.
Chihiro: That's true.
Ryan: For example, if I say "right"
Chihiro: We know that Ryan is either agreeing with me, or he's saying yes to the topic at hand. But if he says it like this,
Ryan: Right?
Chihiro: Then I know that he's asking for confirmation of some sort. Right?
Ryan: Right. Or one of the other examples is the word "what". If Chihiro says,
Chihiro: what?
Ryan: She's asking that something is repeated. But if she says,
Chihiro: What!
Ryan: Then we know that she might be annoyed.
Chihiro: Another thing about intonation is that it would be hard to understand when a sentence ends and when another one begins. The intonation goes along with the rhythm set by the stressed sounds of the words. Therefore, it's important that you understand word stress before intonation.
Ryan: That's true. Take for example this paragraph.
Chihiro: Yesterday, I went to the town fair and put a coin in the fortune telling machine. The crystal ball glowed and a piece of paper fell out. It read, "be expecting a pleasant surprise."
Ryan: No intonation. Now,
Chihiro: Yesterday, I went to the town fair and put a coin in the fortune telling machine. The crystal ball glowed and a piece of paper fell out. It read, "be expecting a pleasant surprise."
Ryan: See how it makes a difference? A good way to practice this is by reading a book out loud. Try practicing your stress and intonation this way. You'll see how important it is when the characters speak! You don't have to read fast, just try adjusting your voice according to the content.
Chihiro: Yes, that's definitely good practice. I hope to see you all there!
Ryan: Bye for now.
Chihiro: Bye, everyone!