Intonation
in English.

 

Intonation, the “music” of a language, is perhaps the most important element of a correct accent. Many people think that pronunciation is what makes up an accent. It may be that pronunciation is very important for an understandable accent. But it is intonation that gives the final touch that makes an accent correct or native. Often we hear someone speaking with perfect grammar, and perfect formation of the sounds of English but with a little something that gives her away as not being a native speaker.

 

Therefore, it is necessary to realize that there are three components to an accent, pronunciation, intonation, and linking. In other places we will examine pronunciation, the proper formation of vowels and consonants, and linking, the way that syllables within a word, and the beginning and ending of words come together.

 

We will look at three places that help us to hear clearly the difference that intonation makes in the daily use of a proper North American English accent. The practice with the following three situations will help you to notice, practice, and master the different intonation patterns that you will discover as you concentrate more on your use of North American English. The three situations are: 1. the different intonation of the same word when it is used as a noun or as a verb; 2. the different intonation of the same word when it is used as an adjective or as a verb; 3. the intonation of expressions of two words.

 

You can find more on this topic at: http://www.goodaccent.com

There are resources at: http://www.goodaccent.com/accentbooks.htm

And in Spanish at http://www.inglesparalatinos.com/old/Pronunciar.htm


 

1. Intonation: Noun Verb

 

Knowing when and where to stress the words you use is very important for understanding, and is part of a good accent. A clear example is that of the different stress in nouns and verbs.

 

It will be useful for you to be aware of the stress in both cases. Here is a list of a few that will get you thinking and give you some practice in identifying them and using them correctly. Underline the syllable that is stressed, and write a brief explanation to indicate that you understand the difference. I start the exercise with two examples. You do the rest. And make sure you pronounce the words OUT LOUD.

 

to suspect

To have an opinion

a suspect

A person under suspicion

to present

To to give, to introduce

a present

A gift, now

to concert

 

a concert

 

to conflict

 

a conflict

 

to contest

 

a contest

 

to contract

 

a contract

 

to contrast

 

a contrast

 

to convert

 

a convert

 

to convict

 

a convict

 

to default

 

a default

 

to discharge

 

a discharge

 

to incline

 

an incline

 

to insult

 

an insult

 

to object

 

an object

 

to permit

 

a permit

 

to present

 

a present

 

to produce

 

a produce

 

to progress

 

a progress

 

to project

 

a project

 

to protest

 

a protest

 

to rebel

 

a rebel

 

to recall

 

a recall

 

to reject

 

a reject

 

to research

 

a research

 

to subject

 

a subject

 

to survey

 

a survey

 

 

You need to insert a paragraph here on this newspaper insert.

 How can you object to this object?

I'd like to present you with this present.

The manufacturer couldn't recall if there'd been a recall.

 The religious convert wanted to convert the world.

The political rebels wanted to rebel against the world.

The mogul wanted to record a new record for his latest artist.

If you perfect your intonation, your accent will be perfect.

Due to the drought, the fields didn't produce much produce this year.

 Unfortunately, City Hall wouldn't permit them to get a permit.

 


2. Intonation: Noun/Adjective and Verb

 

In the previous case, we saw that verbs of two syllables often have the stress on the second syllable, while the related noun has the stress on the first syllable.

 

This case, along with the previous case, is an example of the effect that meaning has on intonation in English. Many native speakers do not realize that the “rule” of this section is pretty rigorous. To know it can help you in building your vocabulary at the same time as you perfect your intonation.

 

There is another intonation pattern that you must master. Verbs ending in the letters ate pronounce the letter “a” of the last syllable with the “long a” sound (the name of the letter “a”, the sound of the words steak and make). Related nouns or adjectives pronounce the letter “a” of the last syllable with the indefinite schwa sound (the sound of the “a” of the word about, or the second “e” in the word elephant)

 

For each word, indicate that you realize the effect of meaning on intonation by clarifying the difference between the two uses of the same word (“same” meaning having the same spelling.)

 

First, give a brief meaning of the word used as noun or adjective and put the letter I to indicate that the final letter “a” is the indefinite sound of the “a” in about..

 

Next, give a brief meaning of the word used as a verb and put the letter A to indicate that the final letter “a” is the sound of the “long a”. I start the exercise with two examples. You do the rest. And make sure you pronounce the words OUT LOUD.

 

 

WORD

MEANING AS NOUN

OR ADJECTIVE

WORD

MEANING AS VERB

alternate I

Noun: A substitute

alternate A

Verb: To take turns.

appropriate I

Adjective: correct or suitable

Appropriate A

Verb: To take over.

approximate

 

to approximate

 

articulate

 

to articulate

 

associate

 

to associate

 

deliberate

 

to deliberate

 

duplicate

 

to duplicate

 

laminate

 

to laminate

 

graduate

 

to graduate

 

intimate

 

to intimate

 

moderate

 

to moderate

 

predicate

 

to predicate

 

precipate

 

to precipate

 

 

The facilitator wanted to separate the general topic into separate categories

Would you care to elaborate on his elaborate explanation?

Have you heard that your associate is known to associate with gangsters?

How much do you estimate that the estimate will be?


Two Word Stress

 

Knowing when and where to stress the words you use is very important for understanding, and therefore, as part of a good accent. A clear example is that of stress in two word expressions.

 

The place of the stress depends on whether the two words are used to describe something like a “white HOUSE” (meaning a house that is painted white, and not blue or gray). In this case the most important note is the noun because we are talking about a house that happens to be white. Similarly, a fat BOY is an overweight young male.

 

But sometimes-short two word expressions are set and “consecrated”, and mean something special, like “the WHITE house” where Mr. Bush lives. In this case, the emphasis is on the adjective because we are more interested in stressing that it is the house that is known because it is white. Similarly, FAT boy is the nickname of a boy, chosen because it emphasizes his weight.

 

It will be useful for you to be aware of both types of two word expressions. Here is a list of a few that will get you thinking and give you some practice in identifying them and using them correctly. Underline the syllable that is stressed, and write a brief explanation, for both uses of each phrase. I start the exercise with two examples. You do the rest. Make sure you say the phrases OUT LOUD!

 

 

White house

In Washington

White house

House painted white

Light bulb

Shines with electricity

Light bulb

A bulb that is not heavy

Dark room

 

Dark room

 

A cold fish

 

A gold fish

 

The paper box

 

The paper box

 

An old key

 

A door key

 

A nice watch

 

A wrist watch

 

A sticky web

 

A spider web

 

A clean cup

 

A coffee cup

 

A toy gun

 

A water gun

 

A bright star

 

A movie star

 

A new ball

 

A foot ball

 

A sharp knife

 

A steak knife

 

An old brush

 

A hair brush

 

A dry leaf

 

A fig leaf

 

A pointy tack

 

A thumb tack

 

A blackboard

 

A black board

 

A gray hound

 

A greyhound

 

A down payment

 

A late payment

 

He’s a big man.

 

He’s  a big man.

 

A green house

 

A green house