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phonological units. These units form a complex system of intonemes, tonemes, accentemes, chronemes, etc. These phonological units like phonemes consist of a number of variants. The terminal tonemes, for instance, consist of a number of allotones, which are mutually non-distinctive. The principal allotone is realized in the nucleus alone. The subsidiary allotones are realized not only in the nucleus, but also in the pre-head and in the tail, if there are any, cf.:
No. No, Tom. Oh, no, Mary.
The most powerful phonological unit is the terminal tone. The opposition of terminal tones distinguishes different types of sentence. The same sequence of words may be interpreted as a different syntactical type, i.e. a statement or a question, a question or an exclamation being pronounced with different terminal tones, e.g.:
Tom saw it (statement) - Tom saw it? (general question)
^ (general question) - Didn't you enjoy it? (exclamation)
Will you be quiet? (request) - Will you be quiet? (command).
The number of terminal tones indicates the number of intonation groups. Sometimes the number of intonation groups may be important for meaning. For example, the sentence My sister, who lives in the South, has just arrived may mean two different things. In oral speech it is marked by using two or three intonation groups. If the meaning is: 'my only sister who happens to live in the South', then the division would be into three intonation groups: My sister, who lives in the South, has just arrived. On the other hand, if the meaning is 'that one of my two sisters, who lives in the South', the division is into two intonation groups.
Together with the increase of loudness terminal tones serve to single out the semantic centre of the utterance. By semantic centre we mean the information centre which may simultaneously concentrate the expression of attitudes and feelings. The words in an utterance do not necessarily all contribute an equal amount of information, some are more important to the meaning than others. This largely depends on the context or situation in which the intonation group or a phrase is said. Some words are predisposed by their function in the language to be stressed. In English lexical (content) words are generally accented while grammatical (form) words are more likely to be unaccented although words belonging to both of these groups may be unaccented or accented if the meaning requires it.
Let us consider the sentence It was an unusually rainy day. As the beginning of, say, a story told on the radio the last three words would be particularly important, they form the semantic centre with the nucleus on the word day. The first three words play a minor part. The listener would get a pretty clear picture of the story's setting if the first three words were not heard and the last three were heard clearly. If the last three words which form the semantic centre were lost there would be virtually no information gained at all.
The same sentences may be said in response to the question What sort of day was it? In this case the word day in the reply would lose some of its force because the questioner already possesses the information that it might otherwise have given him. In this situation there are only two important words - unusually rainy - and they would be sufficient as a complete answer to the question. The nucleus will be on the word rainy. Going further still, in reply to the question Did it rain yesterday? the single word unusually would bear the major part of the information, would be, in this sense, more important than all the others and consequently would be the nucleus of the intonation pattern.
Grammatical words may be also important to the meaning if the context makes them so. The word was, for instance, has had little value in the previous examples, but if the sentences were said as a contradiction in the reply to It wasn 't a rainy day yesterday, was it?, then was would be the most important word of all and indeed, the reply might simply be It was, omitting the following words as no longer worth saying. In this phrase the word was is the nucleus of the semantic centre.
These variations of the accentuation achieved by shifting the position of the terminal tone serve a striking example of how the opposition of the distribution of terminal tones is fulfilling the distinctive function.
If the phrase ^ has the low-falling terminal tone on the word anything, it means that for this or other reason the person should avoid reading. If the same word sequence is pronounced with the falling-rising tone on the same word, the phrase means that the person must have a careful choice in reading.
It should be pointed out here that the most important role of the opposition of terminal tones is that of differentiating the attitudes and emotions expressed by the speaker. The speaker must be particularly careful about the attitudes and emotions he expresses since the hearer is frequently more interested in the speaker's attitude or feeling than in his words - that is whether he speaks nicely or nastily. For instance, the special question Why? may be pronounced with the low falling tone sounding rather detached, sometimes even hostile. When pronounced with the low-rising tone it is sympathetic, friendly, interested.
All the other sections of the intonation pattern differentiate only attitudinal or emotional meaning, e.g.: being pronounced with the high рге-head, ^ sounds more friendly than when pronounced with the low pre-head, cf.:
He llo! - O He llo!
More commonly, however, different kinds of pre-heads, heads, the same as pitch ranges and levels fulfil their distinctive function not alone but in the combination with other prosodic constituents.
We have been concerned with the relationship between intonation, grammatical patterns and lexical composition. Usually the speaker's intonation is in balance with the words and structures he chooses. If he says something nice, his intonation usually reflects the same characteristic. All types of questions, for instance, express a certain amount of interest which is generally expressed in their grammatical structure and a special interrogative intonation. However, there are cases when intonation is in contradiction with the syntactic structure and the lexical content of the utterance neutralizing and compensating them, e.g.: a statement may sound questioning, interested. In this case intonation neutralizes its grammatical structure. It compensates the grammatical means of expressing this kind of meaning: Do you know what I'm here for? — No (questioning)
There are cases when intonation neutralizes or compensates the lexical content of the utterance as it happens, for instance, in the command Phone him at once, please, when the meaning of the word please is neutralized by intonation.
Lack of balance between intonation and word content, or intonation and the grammatical structure of the utterance may serve special speech effects. A highly forceful or exciting statement said with a very matter-of-fact intonation may, by its lack of balance, produce a type of irony; if one says something very complimentary, but with an intonation of contempt, the result is an insult.
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