What Is The Role Of Prosodic Features In Linguistics

Prosodic Features have very important role in linguistic study. Being a Linguistic student you must know about that. we will discuss the importance of prosody features in linguistics.

Prosody is an important carrier of meaning in spoken utterances and consists of two parts, accent and intonation. Accent is the comparatively greater force and higher pitch that makes one part of the utterance more prominent than other parts. It has a syntagmatic function, giving focus to the accented word and indicating that other parts of the utterance, especially those that follow, are given information.

. Paradigmatic focus is an emphasis on one word as opposed to other words that might have been used. Intonation is the set of tunes that can differentiate meanings of utterances with the same verbal content. Intonation patterns are falls and rises in pitch and combinations of falls and rises. Generally a fall indicates speaker dominance or termination. A rise is hearer oriented and suggests continuance.


We enclose spoken utterances in double quotation marks to distinguish them from sentences, which we print in italics. However, a spoken utterance consists of more than words. In speech meanings are communicated not merely by what is said but also by the way it is said. Read these four brief dialogues.

1 A: Has the Winston Street bus come yet?
B: Sorry. I didn’t understand. What did you say?
2 C: I’m afraid Fred didn’t like the remark I made.
D: Oh? What did you say?
3 E: Some of my partners said they wouldn’t accept these terms.
F: And you? What did you say?
4 G: You’re misquoting me. I didn’t say anything like that.
H: Oh? What did you say?

The sequence of words “What did you say?” occurs in all four dialogues but it is pronounced differently in each. Individual speakers may vary somewhat in just what they pronounce, but the four renditions can be represented as follows, where the most prominent syllable is indicated with capital letters and the rising or falling of the voice is indicated by letters going up or down

We produce all our spoken utterances with a melody, or intonation: by changing the speed with which the vocal bands in the throat vibrate we produce rising or falling pitch or combinations of rise and fall

By making one syllable in a sense-group especially loud and long, usually where the change of pitch occurs, we endow that word with a special prominence called accent. Intonation and accent together constitute prosody, the meaningful elements of speech apart from the words that are uttered.

Within each sense-group one word (more accurately, the stressed syllable of one word) is more prominent than the rest of the group, giving special attention or focus to that word. Thus, the more numerous the divisions made, the more points of emphasis there are. Compare

“I’d never say THAT” with one focus and “I/would Never/say
THAT” with three.

Typically, when speech is represented in print, italics are sometimes used to indicate the accent, but this is done only sporadically and unevenly; our writing system largely neglects this important element of spoken communication. A written transcript of a speech can be highly misleading because it is only a partial rendition of that speech. In speech there is always an accent in some part of an utterance, and placement of accent in different parts of an utterance
creates differences of meaning.

Facts You Must Know About Prosodic Features In English Linguistics

In the English language accent is mobile, enabling us to communicate different meanings by putting the emphasis in different places. The usual place is on the last important word, for instance:
My cousin is an Architect.

If the utterance is broken into two or more sense groups, each group has its own accent. The last accent is ordinarily the most prominent of all because the pitch changes on that syllable

My COUsin is an ARchitect.
My cousin EDWard, who lives in FULton, is an Architect.

Thus the speaker can highlight one word or several words in an utterance and give special focus to that word or those words. The placement of accent on different words ties the utterance to what has been said previously

Here the word architect is new information, something not previously mentioned, and Edward or my cousin is old, or given information, reference to what was already in the discourse. Suppose, instead, that nothing had been said about anybody’s cousin but the discussion had somehow turned to architects.One might then volunteer this information.

My cousin EDward’s an architect.

Here my cousin Edward is new information and the stressed syllable
of the name Edward is accented. The phrase an architect now represents given information and is de-accented.
Accent, by giving special focus to one word, can create contrast with other words that might have been used in the same place. Moving the accent to different words creates different meanings in what would otherwise be a single utterance.

Thus what effect prosody has in an utterance—what meanings it carries—depends on the total context in which the utterance occurs. Now let’s turn back to intonation, the set of tunes that can differentiate meanings of utterances with the same verbal content. In a tone language such as Chinese or Thai differences of relative pitch or differences in the change of pitch have a lexical function; words with different meanings are distinguished only by the difference of pitch.

Intonation does not have the function of differentiating lexical meanings. Intonation applies as a whole utterance or at least to a whole tone unit, though of course a tone unit or an utterance can consist of a single word. Intonation is achieved by different vibrations of the vocal cords. Greater frequency of vibration results in what we call higher pitch.

Into national changes of pitch may occur at various places in an utterance, but observation shows that changes at or near the end of the utterance have more prominence and are more likely to be meaningful than utterance-internal changes. Physiologically, it is natural that vocal cord vibration should slow to a halt as the speaker reaches the end of an utterance—in other words, that a falling pitch is more ‘normal’ and, correspondingly, a rising pitch at the end of an utterance is the indication of something special

Speakers do not merely have certain abstract knowledge; they use that knowledge in various social contexts. Pieces of language, like other signs, depend on context for what they signify. We recognize social context and linguistic context. We distinguish between sentence, a language formation and utterance, what is produced in a particular social context. The meaning that speakers extract from an utterance is often more than the linguistic message itself; knowledge of reality, the situation, and the participants in the communication event enables the individual to fill in. A conversational implicature is the information that is not spoken but is understood in tying one utterance meaningfully to a previous utterance.

by Abdullah Sam
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