Teaching Pronunciation (15)
Intonation is speech melody, the way our voice goes up and down as we speak. Intonation is very important in expressing meaning, and especially in showing our feelings, such as surprise, anger, disbelief, gratitude, etc. Intonation patterns are quite complex, and it is better for students to acquire them naturally rather than try to learn them consciously. That is, your modeling and their imitation in an unconscious way is important.
Rising intonation is used in asking yes/no questions, and to express surprise, disbelief, etc. The voice rises sharply on the stressed syllable. Is he your friend? Do you want some tea? “In English, rising intonation is normally used at the end of questions which do not begin with an interrogative word (that is to say, questions which may be answered merely by yes or no)” (Prator, Jr., and Robinett 1972:54).
Falling intonation is used for normal statements, commands, and for WH-questions. The voice rises slightly earlier in the sentence, and then falls on the key word being stressed. What’s your name? Remember that the voice rises slightly earlier in the sentence, and then falls on the key word being stressed. Remember that “the voice often does not rise and fall (suddenly); . . . the change from one tone to another may be gradual and extend over several syllables” (Prator, Jr., and Robinett 1972:42, footnote).
We need to emphasize that students should weaken the unstressed vowels, blend words together, fix the intonation in their mind, ear, and speech habits. For this they should repeat the short sentences themselves until they sound natural to them (Prator, Jr., and Robinett 1972:47).