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The Pragmatic function of intonation.

The important aspect of communication is influences the ideas, behavior and perception of the listener. The use of language means with the special purpose to influence people is studied by pragmatics.

Pragmatics has a special focus on the choice of language and secondly on producing SOMETHING of influence.

The pragmatic function of intonation consists in the use of intonation with a specific purpose. Intonation serves to actualize the speaker’s pragmatic aim.

The choice of nuclear tones is attributed to the pragmatic function. A statement can be used as a request.

You’re coming?

Come and help me?

The pragmatic function is realized when either the intellect or the emotions of the listener are effected. Intonation is capable o expressing a wide range of attitudinal and emotion meanings. Each nuclear tone and intonation pattern are linked with some particular attitudinal coloring:

The car is very expensive. (emotional, involved)

The car is very expensive. (indifferent, dispassionate)

Emphatic pauses are used to express emotions. Variations in pitch, loudness and tempo serve to make the utterance more expressive and they realize the pragmatic function.

Pragmatic function can be traced in all kinds of communication but admittedly it’s especially relevant in declamatory style and public speaking. Sometimes the function is called rhetorical.

Besides conveying information the intonation is used to effect (impress) the listener and thus it performs the pragmatic function. It’s obvious that not only what you say but how you say makes the communication effective.


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