© L.G. Fomichenko, 2007


L.G. Fomichenko

In modem scientific literature 1 intonation is viewed upon a narrow and broad meaning. In its narrow meaning it is used to define a melodic contour, tonal movement. In its broad meaning the term, besides melody, includes intensity or loudness, tempo and pauses. In a complex intonational whole as a sounded big test-unit of analysis it’s difficult to find the rhythmic intonational means which mould an intonational unit into a whole phonetic utterance. The matter is that the means of suprasegmental level of Phonetics participate differently in formation of every unit speech stream. Stress pattern and border-line signals take part in a word formation and pauses play a great role in an utterance formation, though intonational and rhythmic finality also have to be used. That is why many phoneticians came to the conclusion that an intonational unit of analysis must be a phrase. All intonational rhythmic means, namely, melody, stress-pattern, tempo, including pauses participate in a phrase formation. Besides, a phrase is divided quite easily into intonation patterns (or sensegroups, or syntagmas), at the same time preserving all the suprasegmental means realizing an intonation pattern during the phonetic analysis. Thus, we will consider a phrase, which we define as an actualized sentence in speech, as a unit of syntagmatic text segmentation. On the phonetic level the most convenient form of speech intonation analysis is intoneme, localized on a phrase. Intoneme is an «emic» unit, i. e. it is a language unit. We’d like to remind that an «eme»-suffix has the meaning of «a structural element, type, structural language unit»2. Consequently, an intoneme has a phonological status, i. e., on the one hand, it differentiates the communicative type of a sentence (in other words it’s a token of an utterance communicative sense) and a sign of an emotional-expressive attitude of a speaker, on the other hand, it is an indicator of such categories as

definiteness/indefiniteness, theme/rheme, finality/ non-finality, etc.

All the above-mentioned deductions refer to the intonemes of the national language, as for example, English, German, Russian, etc. Then the question arises whether an accented intonatioanal unit (an accented intoneme) preserves its phonological status in a distorted foreign speech of a bilingual or a threelingual and so on. With a big degree of certainty a reply to this question is positive, because, though in a distorted way but either a bilingual or a threelingual is eager to fulfill the communicative task which is put before him/ her. In this article we shall try to consider what characteristic features an accented intonational unit has in the situation of an artifitial threeligualism situation, in the process of English texts’ analyses. The texts were recorded by the second year-students of the French department of Linguistic and Intercultural Communication faculty of Volgograd State University. English is their second foreign language, they have been studying it for a year at the University and some years at secondary schools.

In investigations, directed to the exposition of phonetic phenomena of different speech characteristics (parameters), it’s always important to define the phonetic unit (segmental or suprasegmental (prosodic) with the help of which an investigator plans to decide the tasks of his/ her research. The difficulty of phonetic units localization in the vast prosodic space is in the establishment of relevant prosodic language units, which are meaningful from the point of view of both prosodic realization of speech segments and semantic meaning of these segments.

It’s natural that for each research work of experimental phonetic character there are their own aims and tasks and as a rule a researcher defines the units of analyses within his or her experiment frame. It means that the intonational

units localize on the speech segments of different length, i. e. the syntagmatic plan of expression of speech units are characterized by the divergent way of phrase segmentation into the patterns of analysis.

However it’s necessary to pay attention to the fact that the universal character of the intonational units is based on the paradigmatic character of the unit, namely, the combination of tonal, dynamic and temporal signs. On the one hand, the combination of prosodic parameters remains within the boundaries of the accepted intonational norm that testifies to the favour of the recognized peculiar intonation of any nation or ethnic group. On the other hand, the diversity of prosodic parameters combinations allows to avoid the dull and monotonous pronunciation (sounding) and gives «liveliness» to the utterance.

Nevertheless analyzing the recorded English texts by the Russian students studying French as the first language and English as the second language, it is necessary to state that the so called the «zone» character of the intonational units exists and it participates in the realization of a certain syntagmatic category, being defined by intonational language norms and «nurtured» in a native speaker since babyhood. In other words intoneme has an aural variety. That is why the general intonational tendency of pronunciation is clearly heard, but at the same time the variants of the intonational patterns in speech of the native speakers and bilinguals and threelinguals are noticed.

If we take into account the fact that a language unit is a segment of speech, regularly pronounced as a given specific unity of expression and meaning and which acquires the character of an independent, functionally detached particle or a constant (stable) language element3, then we can define an accented intonational unit as a regularly pronounced intonational pattern, realized on lexico-syntactic, semantic speech segment, characterized by specific accented parameters, which has a zone character of intonational utterance.

Within the frame of this article we’ll try to consider the boundaries of accented intonational unit variations and also to answer if an accented intonational unit (intoneme) has a phonological status of its own.

It’s a well-known fact that while analyzing intonation the phoneticians base on the inventory of signs which constitute the intoneme. The prosodic patterns which reflect the identification of communicative types of the sentences serve to be the basis of the descriptions. Usually the landmark is the basic function of intonation the essence of which is to express the aim of the utterance. Integral prosodic characteristics of the intoneme (the pitch, loudness, voice range, tempo and the level of pronunciation) cover the longer segments of the texts, consisting of many phrases.

In this article we will adhere to the methodology of intonational system analyses of the uttered by threelinguals’ texts according to the tradition which is accepted by British Phonetic School. Thus among the tonal signs the priority is given to the tonal movement in a) the nuclear part of intonation group, i.e. the movement of the nuclear tone, b) the terminal tone, c) the head, d) the pre-head. The next step is the pitch level. The level of the vocal register, where the tonal movement starts, is very important. This phonetic parameter is considered as high, middle and low. The next relevant sign is the interval of the tonal movement. It’s necessary to state if the moves take place within one register, two neighboring registers or through the whole voice range 4. Besides the tonal features it’s necessary to take into account the accented parameter (the character of word stress), the tempo variety and the character of pauses.

As we have already mentioned the phrase can be composed of a few intonation groups, each of which can be characterized by some tonal structure and semantic wholeness.

Thus, according to the experiment we have managed to state that the students of the French department in their quasi-spontaneous utterances, such as, for example, «I have a friend... a girlfriend. Her name is Katya. We live in one... in the same town and... er... unfortunately she doesn’t study with me... er... but... we’ve been friends for... five years already and... er... she is a very nice person... and she is very kind... and open-hearted... and... er... I... and... I like her very much», use a set of intonemes which are characterized by the following prosodic parameters:

1. The direction of the tonal movement of a) the nuclear tone of the non-final intonation

groups (IG) (a friend, town, friends, kind) shows high rise of the middle and wide range; the acoustic correlation of it is 5-10 ht; b) the nuclear tone of final IG (a girlfriend, Katya, (study) with me, person, open-hearted) shows mid rise of mid range; the acoustic correlation of it is 4-5 ht; c) the nuclear tone of the final IG of the utterance (much) indicates mid fall of the mid range; the acoustic correlation of it is 5-6 ht. (See: Intonation graphs 1 and 2).

2. Touching upon the question of the register it’s necessary to note the high pitch of pronunciation of the whole utterance, consequently, the interval of the tonal variation is spread, as a rule, to the middle and high register within tonal movements both rising and falling. The polysyllabic words, for example, «unfortunately», «already», etc. are marked by the complex tones: fall-rise

and rise-fall consequently but the variation of the voice range is characterized as narrow, the acoustic correlation of it is 3-4 ht. and the mid level of register is fixed.

3. The pre-head (I have a ... her (name)... , we (live) and others) are characterized by the middle level tone of pronunciation of the middle and narrow voice range, which corresponds to 2-5 ht. on the acoustic level.

4. All the phrases are characterized by decentralized accent (stress); at the same time each stressed syllable is marked with the rising tone on the mid pitch of pronunciation of the middle and narrow voice range within the intonation group, which corresponds to 3-4 ht. The acoustic parameters of the loudness correspond to 4158 dB, which is characterized as a loud sounding on the perceptual level.

Основной тон [ 330 Гц] [ 73 dB] [ 2828 мс ]

1 have a friend a girl friend

405 360 ' 315 270 ' ” 2 Z5_ —~ —- - "

180 / 135 * ^ 90 - " -45 -

i-'l-wo -^|o -J-I la I’OO iHI° -£l‘

1204/320 Ги 1116 Гц/8 pt |45/?1 dB |3676/4324 мс |Длина: 647 MC ^

Intonation graph 1

Основной тон [ 248 Гц] [ 55 с)В] [ 9278 мс X |

in the same town

405 " 360 315 270 “ 225 ___ _ _ . 180 - - ~nnnn"^~ _ 135 ” -90 -—•„

1^|«о -^|o LJj |ioo -^i

|204/322 Гц |118Гц|8р< ¡45/71 dB |S523ß861 мс |Длина: 333 мс _ 1

Intonation graph 2


L.G. Fomichenko. Accented intonational unit and its phonological status

5. The tempo of speech is characterized as normal; the hesitation pauses are marked as an integral feature of the utterance.

Thus, underlying the brightest, most peculiar parameters of the accented intonation unit, which is heard in an unprepared English speech of the Russian students studying French as the first foreign language, it’s necessary to notify the following: the nuclear tone of non-final and final intonation groups and phrases is marked by the usage of High Rise of the middle and broad voice range; the middle and broad voice range of pronunciation of phrases is marked by the rising tone on the stressed notional words; the middle pitch of the middle and narrow voice range of the Pre-head is widely used; a decentralized accent (stress) within the phrase is noticed; normal tempo and hesitation pauses are also marked by the investigator.

It should be noted that the structure of the intoneme with the characteristic rising nuclear tone of intonation groups as well as the rising tone on the notional stressed words within the phrase create the impression of non-finality, indefiniteness, the tense state of expectation of the partner’s

further speech continuation and uncertainty. But the last feature can be referred not to the object of description, but to some degree to the person himself/herself, when the latest is not sure of the correctness of his/her speech.

Thus, speaking about the phonological status of the accented intonation unit, we can state that the described above a melodic variation of the accented intonation unit reflects non-finality, indefiniteness and uncertainty of the speaker’s verbal behaviour.


1 Baranov A.I. et al. Anglo-Russian Dictionary on Linguistics and Semiotics. M., 1996; Dubovskii Y.A. Language Prosodic Contrasts. Simferopol, 1983; Ivanova-Lukjanova G.N. The Culture of Oral Speech. M., 2002; Linguistic Encyclopedic Dictionary / Ed. by Yartseva VI. M., 1990.

2 Akhmanova O.S. The Linguistic Terms Dictionary. M., 1966. P. 525.

3 Ibid. P. 145.

4 Kodzasov S.V., Krivnova O.F. General Phonetics. M., 2001. P. 397-403.