What are the intonation patterns In English? More specifically, what are the intonation patterns in British English? What is intonation and stress? Sounding like a native speaker is as much to do with pronunciation and it is to do with intonation. And a big part of intonation is rhythm. Rhythm of speech is unique to every language and every speaker and getting it accurately makes a big difference to the authenticity and fluency of your speech. I'm going to show you one crucial aspect of intonation in a sentence and types of intonation with examples. So, time to do some intonation practice.
The first question you should ask yourself is whether you speak in a syllable-timed pattern or a stressed-timed pattern. If you come from a stress-timed language that great because british english is a stress-timed language. If you come from a syllable-timed language then this video will really help you to realise the difference in the intonation patterns in English.
So, what's the difference:
Syllable-timed languages vs. stress-timed languages
Some languages can be described as syllable-timed, which means that the time it takes to say what you say is based on the number of syllables in that phrase or sentence, which would all be spoken with approximately equal length. For example âI want to go for a walk' has seven syllables. To feel the rhythm of a syllable-timed language, say each syllable with the same length.
Other languages can be described as stress-timed, which means that the time it takes to say what you say depends on the number of stressed syllables or stressed words, simply because the words in-between are not spoken with the same emphasis. For example, âI want to go for a walk' might have two or three stressed words, as in:
âI WANT to go for a WALK' or âI WANT to GO for a WALK'
Listen to the audio of these phrases and you may notice that it takes very slightly less time to say the first than the second, and even less time compared to the syllable-timed version. Record yourself saying this phrase and consider which best describes your habit.
The British English language spoken in an RP accent is stress-timed, so the length of what you say is based on the number of stressed words or stressed syllables in any one given phrase or sentence. This translates as a rhythm in speech, so the change of rhythm between the first and second examples above is because of the differing number of words that are stressed.
Listen to the audio and then repeat the following examples spoken firstly in syllable-timed and then stress-timed:
âWhat's the most im.POR.tant part of this training?'
âI'm going to the shops, do you want anything?
âI've never flown before â I'm quite NER.vous.'
âWe all arrived on time, but Tom was three hours late!'
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And be sure to check out this other post:
5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech