Intonation In English: Expression Of Two Words
by Frank Gerace
Listen and Learn: The Intonation of Two-Word Expressions
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 native.
Intonation is the "music" of a language, and is perhaps the most important element of a good accent. Often we hear someone speaking with perfect grammar, and perfect formation of the sounds of English but with a little something that gives them away as not being a native speaker.
Therefore, it is necessary to realize that there is more than the correct pronunciation of the vowels and consonants of a language. This is very important and we do stress it in other articles. But it is only one of the three components to an accent, pronunciation, intonation, and linking.
In other places we will examine the correct pronunciation of vowels and consonants, and linking, the way that syllables within a word, and the beginning and ending of words come together.
But in this article we will look at how the difference that intonation makes in the daily use of a proper North American English accent. The practice 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.
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.
According to whether it is an ordinary two-word expression or a special, set expression, the place of the stress changes. In an ordinary expression 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 or "consecrated", (that is, they mean something special) and have to be made different from similar expressions. One example is "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. In the same way, "FAT boy" is the nickname of a boy, chosen because the word fat 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!
Intonation In English: Nouns And Adjectives Are Stressed Differently Than Verbs
by Frank Gerace
Listen and Learn: Nouns and Adjectives one way; Verbs another
Chinese has "tones" but all languages have their own special intonation. The "music" of a language is its intonation and it is perhaps the most important element of a correct accent.
A "good" accent is not only a question of good pronunciation. 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.
But what interests us now is the issue of intonation, and in particular the difference in intonation of nouns and adjusctives on the one hand, and the intonation of verbs on the other. A review of this gives us a perfect example of how meaning affects intonation.
Noun/Adjective and Verb
In other articles, 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. We also saw that expressiones of two words are stressed differently according to their meaning.
This article, along with the others, 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 that you perfect your intonation. Even native speakers can profit from being more precise in the intonation of their English.
This 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 know the difference between the two uses of the same word (by "same" we mean 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" of the word make.
I start the exercise with two examples, the words alternate and appropriate. I have indicated the stress with CAPITAL LETTERS. You underline the syllable that is stressed, and write a brief explanation to indicate that you understand the difference. You do the rest of the table. And make sure you pronounce the words OUT LOUD.
Noun: A substitute
Verb: To take turns.
Adjective: correct or suitable
Verb: To take over.
Now, you do the rest of the table, underlinging the accented syllable and defining the word to emphasize your understanding that the accent goes with the meaning.
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
precipitate, to precipitate
Practice on the following sentences that contain some of the words of the list used buth as noun or adjective, and as verb. Underline the accent and read the sentences out loud
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?
About the Author:
Frank Gerace Ph.D has worked in Latin America in UN and national Educational and Communication Projects, and has taught in Bolivian and Peruvian Universities. He currently teaches English in New York City at La Guardia College/CUNY. He provides resources on accent reduction and the proper American English accent at http://www.GoodAccent.com
How to Improve Your Accent
Are you tired of people asking you to repeat because they don't understand you? Your friends say, "Just do this!" and they expect you to make the sound! Would you like to learn once and for all what to do with your lips, tongue and mouth to make the sounds of english?
Do you feel that everything sounds the same? You know you are pronouncing the words wrong; you know that you are pausing too much; you know that when you talk, it doesn't sound like english, but you don't know what to do.
Wouldn't you like to learn once and for all what are the most common errors that people make when they learn english so you could concentrate on those errors.
Then... take a look at this page and the information and the resources that it makes available to you!
First of all, you have to realize that an accent is made up of three parts: intonation, liaisons, and pronunciation.
You have to learn the "rules" of these three components of your new language. The work "rule" is in quotes because in speech all "rules" may be broken by native speakers in special circumstances. Still, if a "rule" helps you 9 times out of ten, you shouldn't complain if it fails you once.
Intonation is the most important and the most difficult to change. It is the "music", the rhythm or a language. Get a free report on intonation here!
Liaisons, or linkages, are the ways that words and parts of words are linked together in a language. This may be very different from how you do it in your native language.
And pronunciation is the way that sounds are made in the new language. These sounds may be similar (rarely exactly the same) to the sounds of your own language, or they may be very different. To learn the sounds, you have to learn where in the mouth the sound is made, how it is made, and the position of the tongue in making the sound.