Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Intonation revisited

Late last week I heard a BBC continuity announcer (or news summary reader – I tried to track her down on iPlayer, but found I have no future as a cyberstalker) make a mistake of intonation that betrayed her ignorance of the Beautiful Game. It was about England fielding its "first team" (that is, its first choice of players) against San Marino. I reproduce here (in the first of the pair) a representation of the appropriate intonation to convey this meaning:

Apologies for the somewhat basic graphics (basic in comparison with the ones I used here, in my first post about intonation). 20-odd years of experience with the graphics  capabilities of The Dark Side outweigh less than a year with Android.
But she used the second intonation – which would have been appropriate in the case of a record-breaking event or achievement, such as this:

Fig. 2
This example led me to reread last May's post about the way stress can affect meaning.  In a digression there I said of some aperçu  I had quoted:
<autobiographical note> 
It may have been mentioned in a lecture by the then Doctor, now Professor, Erik Fudge (though he may have read it somewhere else). 
</autobiographical note>
Thinking to avoid a digression too far I didn't mention another, which has been simmering away at the back of my mind. Well the metaphorical steam has been building up for several months, and the pressure has got too much for me; so here is that thought:

<suppressed_meta_digression phase="preamble">
The intonation patterns in direct and indirect speech differ; the information conveyed by the intonation is more specific in the case of direct speech. Look at these two:
Fig. 3
The first, of course, is the more dramatic; moreover, the gradient of the arc is infinitely variable. In contrast, the arc in the case of indirect speech is much flatter, and if the reporter wants to vary the reported utterance's force all they can do is add something adverbial and/or change the verb. Here are three possibilities:
Fig, 4
(The possibilities are almost limitless, given the range  of adverbials and substitute verbs, and they all have pretty flat intonation, but at least there‘s some variation.)

But look what‘s happened to the high point of the intonation curve. In the original direct speech [shown in the first of the pair, Fig.3] , the intonation reaches its peak at the word away, but in the expanded versions [shown in Fig. 4] it doesn't. Perhaps this might be referred to as "intonatio praecox": the intonation in the report reaches its climax earlier than in the actual speech.

In the report of that direct speech, though [shown in Fig 5], while the contour of the arc is necessarily different [but hold that thought: necessarily?] the peak  is on the same word:
Fig. 5
To use the words my brother learnt when he was doing geology at O-level, it has a scarp slope (for the first part of the actual speech)  and a dip slope for the end of the actual speech plus the predicate. 


<suppressed_meta_digression phase="NECESSARILY">
In reports of direct speech, the intonation is inaccurate. It would be possible to use intonation such as that shown in Fig. 6, which would be closer to the truth of the speech event:
Fig. 6
"Accurate" but unnatural intonation,
with the direct speech starting and ending at the same pitch
But that's just not the way English intonation works. You may hear this sort of intonation in dramatic readings, but the less "accurate" version shown in Fig. 5 is the conversational  norm.
Maybe this intonation defines a dramatic reading: as the initial arc of the quoted speech begins and ends at the same level, it's easier to forget that the reader is there at all. On the other hand, in the more common (Fig. 5) intonation, the reporter hi-jacks the original speaker's intonation, flattening out the dip slope – and effectively saying 'I'm here'. [I'm not sure about this though  – feel free to disagree.]

PS Another clue: Hang about, that is a foundation. (7)

Update, 2015.10.16.10:20 – Added esprit d'escalier in blue.

Update, 2015.12.06.10:40 – OK, that's long enough. The solution to that clue: LINGERIE.

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?)

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each e cvowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Well over 49,300 views  and nearly 9,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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