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Intonational Styles (review)

Intonation of discourse types was explored by Antonina Antipova, Russian linguist.

Informational (formal) style. When using informational style the speaker is primarily concerned that each sentence type, such as declarative or interrogative, command or request, dependent or independent, is given an unambiguous intonational identity. The sender of the message consciously avoids giving any secondary values to utterances that might interfere with the listener’s correct decoding the message and with inferring the principal point of information in the sentence. So in most cases the speaker sounds dispassionate.

According to Antonina Antipova, the characteristic feature of informational style is the use of Low Pre-Head + Falling Head + Low Fall (Low Rise) + Tail, normal or slow speed of utterance and regular rhythm. Less frequently the Stepping Head may be used instead of the Falling Head. In certain cases the Fall-Rise occurs, with the falling part of the tune indicating the main idea and the rising part making some addition to the main idea. In informational style intonation never contrasts with the lexical and grammatical meaning conveyed by words and constructions. Internal boundaries placement (pausation) is semantically predictable that is an intonation group here always consists of words joined together by sense. Besides, it’s important to note that intonation groups tend to be short, duration of pauses varies from medium to long. Short pauses are rather rare. Scientific (Academic) style. Attention is focused here on a lecture on a scientific subject and reading aloud a piece of scientific prose that is to say, the type of speech that occurs in the written variety of language, in one-sided form of communication (monologue), in prepared, public, formal discourse.

The lecture’s purpose is threefold: 1. He must get the message of the lecture across to his audience, 2. He must attract the attention of the audience and direct it to the message, 3. He must establish contact with his audience and maintain in throughout the lecture. To achieve these goals he makes recourse to a specific set of intonational means. The most common pre-nuclear pattern (i.e. that part of the tune preceding the nucleus) is Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head.

The Stepping Head makes the whole intonation group sound weighty and it has a greater persuasive appeal than in Falling Head. Occasionally the High Head may occur as a less emphatic variant of the Stepping Head. The enables the lecturer to sound categoric, judicial, considered and persuasive.

As far as the terminal tone is concerned, both simple and compound tunes occur here. The High-Fall and the Fall-Rise are the most conspicuous tunes. They are widely used as means of both logical emphasis and emphasis for contrast. A succession of several high falling tones also makes an utterance expressive enough, they help the lecturer impress on his audience that he’s dealing with something he’s quite sure of something that requires neither argument nor discussion. Thus basic intonation patterns found here are follows:

Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head + Low Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head +Stepping Head + High Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head + Low Rise + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High Medium Level Head + Low Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High Medium Level Head + Fall-Rise + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High Medium Level Head +Low Rise + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High Medium Level Head + Mid-Level + Tail
(Antipova, 1979)

Pauses are predominantly short, their replacement and the ensuing internal boundaries are always semantically or syntactically predictable. Hesitation pauses are to be avoided. (Antipova, 1979)

Declamatory style. The term «declamatory» serves for many kinds of linguistic activity. There’ll be discussed two varieties of oral representation of written literary texts, namely: reading aloud a piece of descriptive prose (the author’s speech) and the author’s reproduction of actual conversation (the speech of the characters).

The intonation of reading prose has many features in common with that of reading scientific prose. In both styles the same set of intonational means is made use of but their frequency of occurrence is different here. In the pre-nuclear part the Low Pre-Head may be combined with the Stepping Head, the broken Stepping Head, the heterogeneous head or a descending sequence of syllables interrupted by several falls. The nuclear tone in final intonation groups is generally the Low Fall or, less frequently, The High Fall. The principal nuclear tones in non-final intonation groups are the Low Fall, the High Fall and the Fall-Rise. The speed of utterance in reading descriptive prose is relatively slow and as a result there are no marked variations in rhythm. Pauses may be different in length but as distinct from reading scientific prose long pauses are more common. Internal boundaries are related to semantic or syntactic categories. When reading aloud a dialogue text, representing the speed of the characters in drama, novel or story, it should be borne in mind that it’s different in the matter of intonation from a descriptive text, representing the author’s speech (monologue). As far as the pre-nuclear pattern is concerned, it should be noted that the Low or High Pre-Head may be combined with any variety of descending, ascending or level heads. In the terminal tone both simple and compound tunes are widely used. Special mention should be made of the falling-rising tone which has a greater frequency of occurrence in reading dialogic texts than in actual conversation. The pitch-level in most utterances is generally high and the range is wide unless the conversational situation and the speaker’s purpose necessitate the reverse. (Antipova, 1979)

Publicistic style. The term «publicistic style» is a very broad label which covers a variety of types, distinguishable on the basis of the speaker’s occupation, situation and purpose.

Any kind of public oration imposes some very important constraints on the speaker. The success of a political speech-maker is largely dependent on his ability to manipulate intonation and voice quality. Intonation adequate for political speeches is characterized by the following regularities. In the pre-nuclear part the main patterns are:

Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head

Low Pre-Head + Falling Head

Here is a list of basic intonation patterns which may be found in publicistic style:

Low Pre-Head + Falling Head + High Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + Falling Head + Low Rise + Tail

Low Pre-Head + Falling Head + Fall-Rise + Tail

Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head + High Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head + Low Rise+ Tail

Low Pre-Head + Stepping Head + High Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High or Medium Level Head + Low Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High or Medium Level Head + High Fall + Tail

Low Pre-Head + High or Medium Level Head + High Fall + Rise+ Tail

Low Pre-Head + High or Medium Level Head + Mid-Level+ Tail

(Antipova, 1979)

The speed of utterance is related to the degree of formality, the convention being that formal speech is usually slow, less formal situations entail acceleration of speed. Variations in rhythm are few. Pausation and the ensuing internal boundaries are explicable in semantic and syntactic terms. Hesitation pauses are avoided, still silent hesitation pauses occasionally do occur. (Antipova, 1979)

Familiar (conversational) style. Generally speaking familiar style will allow the occurrence of the entire range of intonation patterns existing in English. Relatively unexcited conversational situations are characterized by Low Pre-Heads falling or stepping heads and simple low falling or rising tones. Monosyllabic response utterances display standardised, narrowed pitch patterns. Degrees of increasing intensity of excitement correlate with increased pitch height. As a result widened pitch patterns are typical of more excited situation. In this connection one should note the high proportion of intonation patterns with the high nuclear tone. The flow of conversation much depends on these patterns as the High Fall implies among other things the affect of personal participation of involvement in the situation.

In spontaneous informal conversation there’s marked tendency for intonation to form a basic set of recurrent patterns. (Antipova, 1979)

The head is not independent melodic unit, as it cannot be used without the terminal tone. Compared with tone dial function as melodic component is not significant. However, according to the more traditional point of view of the head of different levels and range in combination with nuclear tone plays a role in the transfer emotionally-modal meanings.

Антипова А. М. Система английской речевой интонации. М.: Высш. Шк., 1979


2 thoughts on “Intonational Styles (review)

  1. A very good post to learn the patterns of intonations, Thanks. However, I’m sure people reading this post could do with simpler sentences and easier presentation. Learning intonation is as important as learning to write comprehensible, easy sentences. Practicing reading, writing, and intonation together help in being fluent in the English language.

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