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The Social function of intonation

Intonation is an important indication of the social status of the individual, his/her social identity, social role. It’s the indication of age, gender, higher rank, dominance.

According to D.Crystal there are some professions that are highly verbal: layers, preaches, teachers… They have distinctive prosody.

There is also the phonostylistic function.

Summing it all up:

all the particular functions are the realization of the main Communicative function.

Today in phonetic research scholars and learners of English don’t look at intonation in isolation. They also consider the (linguistic and extralinguistic) context. We take into consideration the immediate context and the situation of context. We don’t limit ourselves to stating the phonetic facts, we try to analyze and explain them.

Problems of phonostylistics

The primary concern of linguistics is the study of language in use. It’s particularly relevant for phonetic studies. We’re interested in how the phonetic units are used in various social situation. It’s the extra linguistic situation that influences our choice of language means.

There’s a special branch of linguistics that studies the way language means function in different situation. It’s called functional stylistics. It’s primary concern is functional style – a set of language means used in a particular situation.

Phonostylistics is the study of the way phonetic units, both segmental (sounds) and suprasegmental (intonation), are used in a particular extralinguistic situation.


Extralinguistic situation consists of 3 components:

1) the purpose;

It’s the most important factor that guides the communication. The purpose is what you want to achieve (to get/give information, to instruct, to entertain, to chat). The aim is very important as far as pronunciation is concerned.

The subject matters less important but it stil matters.

This factor can bring numerous variations in pronunciation which are determined both by individual characteristics of the speaker and the character of their relationship.

We must consider individual and socio-cultural features: the social status, social group or class the speaker belongs to.

2) participants

Another important aspect is the character of participant relationship which is reflected in the tenor (тональность) of discourse: formal/ informal, friendly/ unfriendly, SOMETHING

and it effects greatly the choice of linguistic means.

The social roles of the speaker are also important. We have authority subordination relationship (teacher – pupil)

3) scene/ setting

This component has several factors:

- physical orientations of the participants (the distance between people, proximics studies it)

Setting can be also described in the following terms: public/ non-public, formal/ informal, monoloquing/ poliloguing, dialoguing.

It also includes the cannel of communication: face to face, public presentation, telephone, mass media. (аксиальное – радиальное)


All the components of extralinguistic situation influence the choice of linguistic means.


The factors (p.25)

The Classification of Phonetic Styles:

1. Gaiduchic(correlates with functional styles of language)

1) solemn (торжественный)

2) scientific business (научно-деловой)

3) official business (официально-деловой)

4) everyday (бытовой)

5) familiar (непринуждённый)

2. Dubovsky (degrees of formality)

1) informal ordinary

2) formal neutral

3) formal official

4) informal familiar

5) declamatory

3. Ours (the purpose of communication)

1) informational

2) academic

3) publicistic

4) declamatory

5) conversational


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