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Intonation and its functions.

Effective communication depends to a significant degree on such features of speech as variations in the pitch, loudness, tempo & timbre of the voice. These are prosodic, or non-segmental, features, which form a complex unity of properties commonly referred to as intonation –an indispensable characteristic of connected speech & its basic unit - an utterance in particular. Intonation constitutes a constant structural element of an utterance & performs a number of important communicative functions.

The delimiting function: intonation delimits utterances & parts of utterances in the speech flow. In other words, each of the semantic blocks singled out of the speech flow presents a prosodic, or intonation, unit. Since the segmental base of such a unit often comprises a group of words, it is usually defined as an intonation group.

The accentual function: intonation gives precision to the information being conveyed: it signals the central point of information, marking more & less important elements within the utterance through contrasts in the degree of prominence.

To show the aim of communication: to indicate the type of a speech act, or in other terms, the communicative type (a statement, a question, an imperative, an exclamation) or subtype of an utterance (e.g. a reply or an announcement within a statement; an instruction or an order within an imperative, an alternative question with a complete/incomplete list of choices or a certainty/uncertainty disjunctive question within interrogative utterances). Often, intonation is the only marker of the speaker's communicative intent.

The attitudinal, or modal-emotional, function of intonation: the important role of intonation in conveying the speaker's attitude to the subject matter and to the speech situation, as well as his relations with the listener and his emotional state at the moment of communication.


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