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The notion of prosody is broader than the notion of intonation

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1. Intonation and Prosody

2. Prosodic Units

3. Prosodic Subsystems: Pitch, Utterance Stress, Rhythm, Tempo, Pauses

4. Functions of Prosody

5. Bilingualism and Prosodic Interference

6. Features of Russian - English Phonetic and Prosodic Interference

List of Terms

n intonation

n prosody

n rhythmic group

n intonation group

n utterance

n supraphrasal unit

n speech melody (pitch): pitch level, pitch range

n utterance stress

n rhythm

n tempo

n pauses

n the constitutive function of prosody

n the distinctive function of prosody (communicative-distinctive; modal-distinctive; culminative-distinctive; syntactical-distinctive; stylistic-distinctive)

n the identificatory (recognitive) function of prosody

n bilingualism

n interference

Intonation (in a broad sense) – is a complex unity of 5 components, which enables a speaker to express his thoughts, emotions and attitudes towards the contents of an utterance and a hearer:

(1) speech melody (pitch)

(2) utterance stress

(3) tempo

(4) rhythm

(5) voice timbre.

Intonation (in a narrow sense) is reduced only to 1 component – speech melody (pitch).

The notion of prosody is broader than the notion of intonation.

"Prosody" and "prosodic" denote all non-segmental phenomena, those which do not enter into the system of segmental ph-mes (the utterance, the intonation group, the rhythmic group, the s-le).

!!!Prosody of the utterance = intonation

The Hierarchy of Prosodic Units

n a syllable

the smallest prosodic unit which has no meaning of its own, but it is significant for constituting hierarchically higher prosodic units; prosodic features of a s-le (tone, stress, duration) depend on its position and function in a rhythmic unit and an utterance ;

n a rhythmic (accentual) group (unit)

is either one stressed s-le or a stressed s-le with a number of unstressed ones grouped around it; the stressed s-le is the nucleus of a rhythmic unit, the unstressed s-les are clitics (proclitics and enclitics); there are as many rhythmic units in an utterance as there are stressed s-les in it ;

  • an intonation group

is a meaningful complex prosodic unit that structurally consists of one or several s-les and rhythmic groups and has a certain phonetic contour: stress, pitch, duration; minimally, an intonation group consists of one (stressed) s-le — the nucleus and maximally, it contains the prehead, the head, the nucleus and the tail;

the prehead, head and tail are non-obligatory elements of an intonation group, whereas the nucleus is an obligatory and the most important functional element;

  • an utterance

is a higher unit in which prosodic features are actualized, the main prosodic communicative unit which is characterized by semantic unity expressed by all the language means: lexical, grammatical, prosodic;

  • a supraphrasal unit (hyperutterance)

is formed by grouping utterances into complexes occupying a certain slot in the semantic structure of the text;

  • a phonetic paragraph;
  • a text.

Prosodic Subsystems

n pitch (speech melody)

is the variations in the pitch of the voice which take place with voiced sounds.

• the pitch level is determined by the pitch of the highest-pitched syllable in an utterance; in unemphatic speech most phoneticians distinguish 3 pitch levels: high, mid, low.

• the pitch range is the interval between the highest-pitched and the lowest-pitched syllable in an utterance.

• the rate of speech variations may be different depending on the time during which these variations take place and on the range of the variations.


The basic unit used to describe the pitch component is the tone depending on whether the pitch of the voice varies or remains unvaried.

Tones are divided into:





kinetic (terminal)

*simple (falling (F), rising(R)

*complex (R-F, F-R, R-F-R)


n utterance stressis the special prominence given to one or more words in an utterance by means of variations of pitch, loudness, length and quality.

The subsystem of English utterance stress includes three basic subtypes: *nuclear, *non-nuclear, * partial.

The distribution of stresses in an utterance depends on several factors: semantic, grammatical and rhythmical.

Stress in an utterance fulfills the same three functions as other components of prosody: constitutive, distinctive,



n rhythmis regularity or periodicity in the occurrence of a particular phenomenon in an utterance.

According to the rhythm:

Ø SYLLABLE-timed languages (French, Spanish) – the speaker gives approximately equal period to each s-le (stressed or unstressed);

Ø STRESS-timed languages (English, German, Russian) - the utterance stress serves as a basis for the rhythmical organization of speech and stresses segment the speech continuum into rhythmic units of more or less equal length.

Acoustically, rhythm is a complex of variations in frequency, intensity and duration.



Special investigations show that the intervals of time between stressed s-les (peaks of prominence) are not absolutely equal.

The question is how to divide utterances into rhythmic units.

  • A. Classe, D. Abercrombie, H. Halliday, J. Pring, others define the unit of rhythm as a sequence of s-les from one stressed s-le to another

(e.g. se ǁ mantic im ǁ portance)

  • G. Torsuyev, V. Vassilyev, R. Kingdon, J. O'Connor,

W. Jassem, others consider that the boundaries between rhythmic units are determined by the semantic and grammatical relations between the words of an utterance

(e.g. semantic ǁ importance)


n tempo is the rate at which utterances and their smaller units are pronounced.

On the acoustic level tempo is generally measured by the number of syllables per second.

Tempo of speech may be determined by different factors: the size of audience, the acoustic qualities of the room, the individuality of the speaker.

Speech has some norm oftempo, so phoneticians generally distinguish normal tempo and two deviations from it: fast and slow.

n pausesdivide the speech continuum into units of different length and size.

The main function of a pause is to segment connected speech into utterances and intonation groups and to delimit one utterance or intonation group from another.

Phoneticians distinguish 3 main types of pauses:

n silent pauses (a stop in the phonation);

n pauses of perception (a sharp change of pitch direction or variations in duration, or both);

voiced (filled) pauses (hesitation pauses) (are used in spontaneous speech to think over what to say next).



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