Lecture 12 Intonation: Fall-plus-Rise tune; information structure Assimilation & elision cei unit 9 si! 10. 1 A intonation Compound tune: the fall-plus-rise



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Lecture 12

Intonation: Fall-plus-Rise tune; information structure

Assimilation & elision



CEI Unit 9

SI! 10.1

A) Intonation

Compound tune: the fall-plus-rise

  • A combination of high fall and low rise within the same tone unit

  • An exception to the rule of ‘only one nuclear syllable per tone unit’

  • Can occur with a low prehead (ex. 1e)

  • Can occur with the (emphatic) high head (ex. 1f and g)

  • Can occur with a (rising) tail

The meaning of the fall-plus-rise

  • combines the meanings of the high fall and the low rise: lively, involved

  • less definite/more tentative than the high fall on its own (ex. 1d and e)

  • can sound pleading, persuading, plaintive and encouraging

  • can be used for continuation rises, i.e. to mark that the speaker has not finished.

  • can mark one bit of the tone unit as new (the fall) and another as given information (the rise). See ex. 1g.

Distinguishing between the fall-rise and the fall-plus-rise

Features of the intonation pattern:



  • If there’s only one accented syllable, the fall-plus-rise is ruled out (ex. a-c)

  • Only the fall-rise occurs with a falling head (ex. d-e)

  • The fall-plus-rise occurs with a high head (if there’s a head)

Contextual clues:

  • The fall-rise is the typical pattern used for contrastive emphasis (ex. f)

  • If the falling part conveys given and the rising part conveys new information  fall-plus-rise (ex. g)

Highlighting information by means of

  • accent placing

Neutral accent placing: The first and the last lexical word are accented. (Other lexical words may be stressed, but not accented)

Emphatic: more lexical words are accented (typically through the use of an emphatic head)

(i) The root of the problem lies in the committee’s mandate.

(ii) The root of the problem lies in the committee’s mandate.



  1. Don’t do it. (neutral accent, i.e. on the last lexical word)

  2. What should I do? (Marked, contrastive emphasis – accented auxiliary)



  • tone unit boundaries

Neutral division into tone units: Tone unit boundaries correspond to clause boundaries.

Emphatic: A tone unit boundary occurs in the middle of a clause (usually at a phrase boundary).



  1. | On the Saturday we went on the London Eye | (tone unit = clause)

  2. | On the Saturday | we went on the London Eye | (marked/emphatic – tone unit boundary between adverbial and subject)



  • tunes

Some tunes are associated with particular discourse meanings, e.g. the Fall-Rise often signals contrast/reservation, which may not be expressed by other means.

  1. | On the /Saturday | we went on the London \Eye | (Low Rise – continuation rise)

  2. | On the \/Saturday | we went on the London \Eye | (Fall-Rise – continuation + contrastive emphasis)

Discourse phenomena

  • continuation rises

    • The ‘non-conclusive’ feature of the rising tone is exploited to show that the speaker hasn’t finished yet (the utterance is incomplete).

    • All the rising tones can be used to mark a continuation rise.

    • Ex. (i) – a series of actions / statements, where the fall on the final tone unit shows that the actions are complete and the utterance has finished.

    • Ex (ii): The final fall suggests that this is the end of the journey.

    • Ex (iii): The rises on the first two wh-questions show that there’s more to come.

    • Ex (iv): In a series of yes-no questions all the nuclei will be rising

    • Ex (v): The fall on \money marks the list as complete. The rise suggests that more could be added to the list, or that the speaker is uncertain whether this was really all.

Subordination rises

  • A rising tone can mark a section of a sentence as (i) grammatically subordinate, or as (ii) subordinate in meaning (or the two combined).

  • Ex. (vi): Subordinate clause, less important in meaning than the main clause.

  • Ex. (vii): Comment clause, not grammatically subordinate, but subordinate in meaning.

  • Ex (viii): Disjunct adverbial; less important in meaning, loosely attached to the rest of the clause. (The same goes for conjunct adverbials.)

Fall-rise preceding/implying reservations (‘but’)

Note that the reservation can be implied even if there is no ‘but’, cf. ex. (ix).



New vs. given information

Marked accent-placing can be used to single out new information

|That’s not what I \meant! |

| Well what \did you mean? |

The fall-plus rise

The falling part is new, the rising given information.

| He’s always \wanted to go to South A/merica |

Assimilation: a sound becomes more like (similar to) an adjacent/nearby sound.

a) Allophonic variation

Most (but not all) instances of allophonic variation in consonants result from assimilation to neighbouring sounds.

e.g. /t/ - basically alveolar, but dental before a dental sound, e.g. eighth []

b) Phonemic assimilation

Assimilation also results in one phoneme ‘changing into’ another. This applies to consonants only.

e.g. /s/  // in this shirt / ()/  / ()/– i.e. in front of //, //, /j/.

/z/  // in the same environment: these shirts /()/

(i) This may be fixed or optional within words

e.g. picture /()/ (no longer /p - /



income // or //

(ii) Across word boundaries this is usually optional



Elision: ‘dropping’ or omitting phonemes

a) Elision of vowels

  1. // is elided before /l, n, r, m,  / producing syllabic consonants, as in little, button, battery, madam, bacon. (Optional, but the usual pronunciation if /t, d/ precede /l/ or /n/).

  2. Elision occurs in weak forms (in appropriate contexts), e.g. would, had in He’d change(d) his mind.

b) Elision of consonants

  1. /d/ is regularly elided in word-final position between consonants, e.g. send two /  / (Optional)

  2. /t/ is regularly elided in word-final position after a fortis consonant and before any consonant, e.g. just wait / /  / / (But not in sent two: //) (Optional)

  3. Elision of consonants in weak forms – obligatory in appropriate contexts. E.g. will /, l /, have /, v/

More about phonemic assimilation

Regressive assimilation (‘assimilation backwards’) = the second consonant influences the first (more common)

Progressive assimilation (‘assimilation forwards’) = the first consonant influences the second (less common)

Assimilation may affect (a) place of articulation; (b) place and manner of articulation; (c) force of articulation.



a) Place of articulation

This affects the alveolar sounds /t, d, n/, articulated as /p, b, m/ before bilabial sounds, and /k, g,  / before velar sounds.

Across word boundaries this assimilation is regressive as in

fat boy //

fat cat //

bad boy //

bad cat //

thin boy //

thin cat //

The same type of assimilation can occur progressively within a single word, as in

happen // bacon //

Regressive assimilation of place of articulation also affects /s, z/ before /j,  / (Examples above: this shirt, these shirts)



b) Place and manner of articulation

This is progressive and involves substituting /, / for /j/ after /t, d/, forming /t, d/, most commonly when ‘you’ follows an auxiliary verb (with or without n’t).



could you //  //

couldn’t you / //  //

c) Force of articulation (fortis/lenis)

Lenis /v, z/ are replaced by /f, s/ before fortis sounds within certain compound words and fixed phrases only! It is usually compulsory, unlike types (a) and (b).



Examples:

news /n(j)u:z/ , BUT newspaper RP: / GA: / or /

have to /hæf t/, has to /hæs t/ used to /ju:s(t) t/

of course /()/ (optional)




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