You will have heard it said that " it's not what you say, it's the way that you say it". This is a good introduction to what we mean by intonation. We use a variation of pitch during speech. Changes in pitch, stress and rhythm enable us to convey our emotions to the listener. Some nationalities don't appear to have the same intonation as we do: think of the Poles, Russians, or Finns that you may teach.
You will probably find that most women you know have a wider range than most men.
Let's start with a look at the falling and rising pitches. In English there are a small and a larger range to play with.
How many? TWO.
Did you find that your tone dropped a little while giving the answer?
Now try again, as if you were checking the answer. TWO?
Did the tone rise or fall? Usually the rise will signal degrees of enthusiasm.
Imagine that you can only answer the following by using the word NO.
Did you finish your homework?
Well, I had a car accident.
My car is a write-off.
Can I borrow yours tomorrow?
Please, I only need it for a little while.
What happens to the tone? Did you find that you had to change it to signify different emotions? We can make a distinction between High- low falls and from Mid-low falls.
When a fall is followed by a string of unstressed syllables, they remain low and the pitch is level. When a rise is followed by a string of unstressed syllables, the rise is spread out over the whole word.
HAPP in ess Fall
Happ in ess Rise
This also applies when the tail is quite long. : WHAT was it you said you wanted me to do?
The fall-rise tone
This is another common tone in English. The fall-rise can occur on one or several syllables. Try it out on the words below.
Now, sometimes, almost, quite,
The rise-fall tone
Take a typical rhetorical question: Why is London so Noisy? if you stress each word in turn when saying this aloud you would expect to find the listener giving you a different answer to each question.
WHY is London so noisy?
Why IS London so noisy?
Why is LONDON so noisy?
Why is London SO noisy?
Why is London so NOISY?